Main Street, Laconia, in the early 1900s. (Michael Brough)
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — A book chronicling the city's history represents a kind of synergy, or a process ending in a product greater than the sum of its parts, says Warren Huse, author of “Celebrate Laconia: 125 Years of the Lake City.”
He has been writing about the city and its past for almost 30 years as a newspaper columnist and is a longtime member of the local historical society, putting him in an excellent position to write this kind of book.
What he may not have realized when he started the project was how much help he would get from the public and how much enthusiasm there would be for the finished work.
“For every item I put in, I had to leave 100 out and probably more like 1,000,” Huse said.
Copies of this book and "Meredith 250th: Celebrating 250 Years of Meredith History," both published by The Laconia Daily Sun, are available at the newspaper office. The books cost $44.95.
The public provided dozens of photos for the books, with many of the images scanned at the city library in March.
One of the provided photos that is close to Huse's heart shows paperboys getting ready to deliver the “Victory in Europe” edition of The Laconia Evening Citizen on May 7, 1945.
The book’s cover image is a color, 1883 bird’s-eye view of the city that was donated to the historical society by former resident Harold H. Young, who happened to find the image in a gallery on 5th Avenue in New York in 1937.
The books have been well received by local residents. Some show emotion when they pick up one of the books and see a photo that strikes a chord with memories of the way things were.
At age 96, Mary Wadsworth wasn't able to leave her longtime home in the Windmill Shores area to pick up the three books she wanted as Christmas presents for her three children.
When the books were brought to her, she sat at the kitchen table of the home where she raised her family and recalled how times were much simpler when she and her husband moved to the region almost seven decades ago.
“Downtown Laconia had a charm to it, with all the stores,” she said. “I loved the old Main Street. That was what we did. We went downtown Friday night and Saturday and did shopping.
“Bringing up kids, that was important. You could get everything you needed in this town. Your husband could go downtown and buy a suit.”
Their children also had the independence to explore with friends, and parents didn't need to be overly concerned, she said. The family would talk about their day over dinner.
“I wouldn't want to be bringing up kids now, to tell you the truth,” Wadsworth said.
The downtown that Wadsworth remembers changed, many say for the worse, during a 1960s and 1970s redevelopment era that is covered in the book.
The book, of which about a quarter is text, contains 270 images — historic photographs and a series of maps showing the growth of today's city from its designation as a town in 1855, with additions from Gilford in 1874 and 1893, when the new city was incorporated.
Huse traces the history of a settlement that began in 1766 with the arrival of Ebenezer Smith at the head of Lake Opechee, through the setting off of a part of Meredith as the new town of Laconia in 1855, in a chapter titled "Early Years." The text continues with "The Young City" and "Modern Times."
Separate chapters in the 160-page book are devoted to Lakeport and Weirs Beach, as well as downtown and other neighborhoods.
The hardcover coffee table book commemorating 250 years of Meredith’s history was created by the Meredith 250th Committee in partnership with the Meredith Historical Society and The Laconia Daily Sun.
“Whether you grew up in Meredith, as I did, made Meredith your home later in life, or are a visitor who enjoys the charm of this community, you will want to purchase a copy of this book that will certainly be a collector’s item,” said Janis Roberts, 250th Book Committee chairman.
The book includes more than 250 images capturing the heritage of Meredith from the 1800s to today. That book is 144 pages.
Daily Sun Publisher Adam Hirshan is happy with the finished products.
“The books are beautiful!,” he said. “The entire staff has been enjoying handing out books to the hundreds of readers who stop by the office to pick theirs up, always with a smile.
“In addition to sharing the rich histories of Laconia and Meredith in these hardcover volumes, the book projects also allow us and our major sponsors to support the Laconia 125th and Meredith 250th celebration events for 2018.
“With help from Bank of New Hampshire and Melcher & Prescott, we are donating $25,000 to Celebrate Laconia. Meredith Village Savings Bank and Mill Falls are helping us donate $25,000 to the Meredith 250th Committee. We hope these in-kind donations will help make each of the many celebration events throughout the coming year a huge success.”
Barbara Annalee Davis Thorndike, the founder of Annalee Dolls, circa 1954. This was about the time the company was incorporated as Annalee Mobilitee Dolls. (Chuck Thorndike)
Laconia Daily Sun employee Karin Nelson delivers "Celebrate Laconia" books to Mary Wadsworth, 96, who was unable to get out to pick them up. She plans to give the books as Christmas gifts to her three children, who grew up in the city at the house where she still resides. (Photo by Rick Green, Laconia Daily Sun)