Footbridge History


Above, the footbridge from Lakeside Avenue to the Winnipesaukee Marketplace (formerly the Lakeside House, then the Lakeside Hotel).

The footbridge is marked on railroad maps as Bridge #33.90. (This means it is 33.90 miles from mile #0.00 of the 1914 Boston & Maine railroad Right of Way Valuation maps. Mile #0.00 was located in Concord.)

From 1880 until 1917, to reach the Lakeside House/Hotel from Lakeside Avenue, customers descended a stairway, then crossed over the railroad tracks, and ascended another stairway to the front lawn of the Lakeside House. Edward T. Milton, who owned the Lakeside House from 1913 until his death in 1925, erected the footbridge in 1917. The footbridge connected directly to the porch of the hotel, and was built over the railroad tracks, about 30 feet north of the previous stairways.

A mid-May, 1917, Laconia Democrat newspaper article noted, “Foundations were being laid at The Weirs for a new steel footbridge over the railroad track from Railroad Avenue to the Lakeside House to afford easier access to the Lakeside for auto parties.”(Railroad Avenue was the former name for Lakeside Avenue.)

The footbridge was built for customers. Customers who were driving could ring the doorbell (the doorbell is still there, on the right post of the two Lakeside Avenue iron posts). Then, a bellhop would get their luggage, and a valet would park their car, in the garage which was located across Lakeside Avenue from the hotel.  We don’t know who the mastermind was that actually designed the footbridge, but it was designed on the behest of Edward T. Milton, who had purchased the hotel in 1913, and was clearly trying to compete with the larger, more sumptious New Hotel Weirs down the street, who also had their own auto garage.

Interestingly,  Edward T. Milton never owned the footbridge. It was owned by the Boston & Maine railroad. It now belongs to the State of New Hampshire, which purchased the B&M’s railroad assets in New Hampshire in 1975.

In 2015, the footbridge received the Ammann Award Winner for “Mystery Bridge”. The following article, written by Jason Smith, on Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, Mystery Bridge #55, “An Unusual Covered Bridge in New Hampshire”, reveals the construction details as follows:

“This bridge brings metal and wood together, not to mention covered bridge and metal truss bridge lovers. This bridge presents an unusual truss design that is almost never seen nowadays. The bridge features a metal deck truss design in a shape of a Kingpost built on an incline. The outer portion has a 40° angle, whereas the inner portion has an obtruse triangular shape that is subdivided. Furthermore, the longest diagonal beam between the center span and the pier has a slight bent where the support beam meets. Looking at the trusses more closely, one can see that the connections are riveted, this putting the construction date up to the time after 1900, the time when riveted truss bridges were being introduced and proliferated with the standardization programs introduced by the states’ highway departments. The covered portion of the bridge in the center span features a pavillion with a half cylindrical roof colored in blue. The roof is supported by four iron piers, one in each corner and that are ornamental at the railing and where the columns meet the roof. The steps (are) made of wood.”

More photos of the footbridge on the Bridgehunter website can be seen here.

In the 1940’s, from the center span, hung a sign promoting bowling at the hotel.

In the 1950’s, lamp lighting was added to the top of each of the four posts of the center span.

In 1986, the lamppost lights were removed when a canopy was added over the center span. Two globe lights were then added underneath the canopy. The original red canopy was replaced with a blue one a few years later.

The footbridge was originally painted green. In 2007, the footbridge was repainted. Most of the footbridge was painted blue. The supporting trusses were painted black. The main posts were painted black, while the ornamental post tops were painted silver. At this time, critical steel bolts that held the center span together were replaced.

In 2016, the wooden steps were reinforced with a new surface layer of wood.

The footbridge is especially attractive at night, when it is lit up with rope lighting curled around its rails and posts. The following photo was taken at dusk during Laconia Motorcycle Week in 2013.

The approach to the footbridge from Lakeside Avenue. Photo taken July 2, 2016.