Gathering to accept the grant on behalf of the Belknap Mill yesterday were, from left: Tara Shore, operations manager, Belknap Mill; Joe Kenney, Executive Councilor, District 1; Dijit Taylor, Executive Director, LCHIP Jacqueline Vickery, chair, Board of Directors, Belknap Mill Society; and Mae Williams, architectural historian. (Courtesy photo)
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — A state program will provide a $202,000 grant for repair and rehabilitation work at the historic Belknap Mill.
The money will be matched dollar for dollar by funds being raised by the Belknap Mill Society.
The New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program announced the grant Monday. In all, the program is providing $3.6 million to 42 projects statewide.
The mill, built in 1823, is thought to be the oldest largely unaltered textile mill in New England.
For a century, it was central to the economy in Laconia. It was closed, vandalized and threatened with demolition in the 1960s. A group of people who recognized its cultural and architectural significance were able to save it.
The Belknap Mill Society has worked to make repairs and foster its use for the community. The mill includes a museum that displays the turbines and control panels used when it was in operation. There are also examples of the machinery used to make socks and other textiles.
“The upcoming LCHIP-assisted repairs will enhance the mill’s position as the historic gateway to Laconia, a showcase for regional industrial development and cultural heritage, and a robust and sustainable community resource,” states a program news release.
Karen Prior, capital campaign director for the Belknap Mill Society, said a local team of architects and experts drew up a historic building assessment plan documenting the need for the grant.
She said the work will include new support beams in the basement and a full renovation of the third floor. Brick work will be repointed and historically accurate window replacements will be done.
Prior said the work to improve the mill comes amid a larger effort to revitalize the downtown area.
Work is expected to begin next year to rehabilitate and refurbish the Colonial Theatre.
“The people of Laconia should be really proud of the mill and the Colonial and all the efforts that are being investigated to make Laconia such a vibrant community,” Prior said. “It's very evident to me that this investment is about community and about all of us.”
This was one of the largest LCHIP grants announced Monday.
The largest grant was for $390,000 and went to the Coptic Orthodox Church for use on the St. Mary & Archangel Michael Church in Nashua.
- A 177-acre property in Ossipee abutting the Pine River State Forest will receive a $110,000 grant. The property, which is bisected by the Pine River as it flows from Pine River Pond to Ossipee Lake.
- The Belmont Conservation Commission will receive a $57,727 grant for the Belmont Currier-Sanborn Conservation Area.
- The Lakes Region Model Railroad Museum will receive $10,000 for the Wolfeboro Railroad Freight Shed.
- The Dan Hole Pond Watershed Trust will receive $110,000 for the Ossipee Munroe Preserve.
- The Grafton Historical Society will receive $24,000 for the Hinkson's Carding Mill.
- Easterseals NH Farnum Center will receive $10,500 for Burleigh Cottage.
LCHIP is a state authority that seeks to protect and preserve the state's most important natural, cultural and historic resources.