LACONIA — The history of Weirs Beach includes Native American encampments, European explorers, a grand hotel, musicians arriving by rail car, the Big Band era and motorcycles aplenty.
Some of that history is now on display in the form of a series of signs along the boardwalk.
K. Peddlar Bridges, an author and historian who helped with the sign project, said the history of the area is a story of movement.
“Planes, boats, balloon ascensions, all the energy that has been there throughout the years has been incredible,” he said. “If it was invented, it had to be taken to The Weirs. “There were boat races, carnivals, a ski jump, snow trains.”
Bridges and M.C. Kennedy submitted the wording for a sign about the MS Mount Washington cruise ship. Robert Ames edited the material for that and the other signs.
The placard shows an image of a paddlewheel boat, the original Mount Washington, which was launched in July 1872.
“For its first fifty years, the original Mount was the primary way around the Lake, as roads were very poor at that time,” the sign says.
The boat burned and sank on Dec. 22, 1939, in a fire that also destroyed the Weirs Beach railroad station. Eight months later, a new Mount Washington was launched.
“It was constructed from the former steamship Chateaugay of Lake Champlain, VT, which had been dismantled into 20 pieces, transported by rail to Lake Winnipesaukee, and then reassembled,” the sign states.
Bridges said it took almost two years to bring the sign project to fruition. The signs are on stanchions bolted to the boardwalk earlier his summer.
About Dec. 1, 1948, the Boston, Concord and Montreal Railroad reached The Weirs, according to another sign.
“Before then, a trip from Boston to the Weirs was a journey that could take days by stagecoach,” stated another sign written by Bridges and Kennedy. “With the advent of the train, this trip could be made in a few hours’ ride.”
The railroad tracks are now used by a local scenic train, but the days of direct train travel from Boston to The Weirs are long gone.
“After peaking in 1915, train service began a long, slow decline, culminating with the end of winter service in 1959, and summer service in 1965,” the sign says.
New Hotel Weirs
Ames wrote the contents of a sign about the New Hotel Weirs, 1880-1924, which was located on property that has now been home for many years to his family’s Half Moon Motel & Cottages.
“The four-story Hotel featured 230 rooms, 50 bathrooms, a veranda the full length of the Hotel, music room with nightly orchestral concerts, dining hall, billiard room gazebo, fountain, tennis courts, and a magnificent view overlooking the lake and mountains,” the sign says.
It burned down on Nov. 9, 1924.
Ames is president of the Weirs Action Committee, which organized the sign project.
“We want people to be aware of the history, but the signs also help with marketing, advertising and promotion,” he said. “The signs help to attract people to the area who have an interest in this sort of thing.”
Each of the signs along the boardwalk have a logo that includes an image of the iconic Weirs Beach sign, and the headline, “A Stroll Through Time.” Each sign also contains a picture of the item being discussed.
Another sign discusses the bridge that spans the Weirs channel, a waterway where American Indians once caught shad from a run that included hundreds of thousands of fish. The present Weirs Channel Bridge is made of Concord granite and was built in 1932.
A sign by Jennifer Anderson examines Laconia Motorcycle Week, 1916 to present. It is billed as the oldest motorcycle rally in the United States.
Pat Tierney, of the Laconia Historical & Museum Society, did a sign about the New Hampshire Veterans’ Association activities in the area from 1878 to the present.
Warren Huse, a local history writer, wrote a sign about the Weirs Beach Trolley service, 1899-1925.
“In 1907, the popular service offered 35 trips a day between Weirs Beach and Laconia, taking 40 minutes from end to end,” the sign says.
“Weirs Beach Takes Flight,” is the headline on another sign, submitted by Nick Tamposi.
“In July 1912, aviation pioneer Harry Atwood took flight from Boston, MA, to The Weirs, where he spent days performing air stunts to the delight of thousands of spectators,” the sign says.
Later, seaplane rides were offered at The Weirs.
In 1925, Bob Fogg began delivering mail by plane to Wolfeboro and elsewhere around the lake.
He charged $5 for a seaplane ride, and his slogan was, “Time Flies — When will you?”