Paugus Bay, Weirs Beach, NH

Looking south toward Paugus Bay in Weirs Beach, from the present-day Route 3 bridge, around 1906:

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Paugus Bay in 2015:

This channel is the place where water flows out of Lake Winnipesaukee through Paugus Bay and eventually to the Merrimack River.  Originally, Paugus Bay was at a slightly lower elevation, and the channel was used by Native Americans for fishing.  They built stone weirs in a “W” shape across the channel to catch shad as they migrated from Winnipesaukee toward the ocean.  However, by the 19th century a dam was built in Lakeport, which raised Paugus Bay to the same level as Lake Winnipesaukee and flooded the old weirs.  Later on, the channel was dredged to allow navigation, effectively making Paugus Bay a part of Lake Winnipesaukee.

When the first photo was taken, this area was a popular tourist destination, and that has only increased over the years.  As seen in the two photos, the waterfront has become significantly more developed, especially on the right-hand side of the channel, which is now occupied by a number of boathouses.  I’m not sure if any of the buildings from 1906 are still around today; the ones on the left are clearly gone, but some of the boathouses in the distance on the right might survive, although it is hard to tell.  It is entirely possible that some of the cottages in the distance beyond the channel might still exist, but with the tree cover it is hard to tell from here.

Weirs Beach, NH

The shoreline of Lake Winnipesaukee at Weirs Beach, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The beach in 2015:

Both of these photos were taken from Endicott Rock, a state park that features a beach and a rock that dates back to possibly the earliest European explorers to reach Lake Winnipesaukee.  When Massachusetts was first colonized, their charter defined the colony’s boundaries based on two largely unexplored rivers: the Charles, and the Merrimack.  The colony would have control over all of the land from three miles south of the southernmost bend of the Charles River, to three miles north of the northernmost bend of the Merrimack River.  Both of these rivers flow roughly southwest to northeast in present-day Massachusetts, and for the southern end this was pretty straightforward; the Charles River’s southernmost bend is in the town of Bellingham, and the current southern border of Massachusetts is roughly based on that location.

For the northern border, however, things became a little more complicated.  As it turned out, the Merrimack River does not flow primarily west to east; just to the west of Lowell it makes a sharp turn to the north, and continues almost due north, well into New Hampshire.  In 1652, Massachusetts governor John Endicott sent a group of explorers to find the source of the river.  They reached the waters of Lake Winnipesaukee here at present-day Weirs Beach, and determined it to be the headwaters of the Merrimack River.  They calculated the latitude to be 43 degrees 40′ 12″ north (which was, impressively, off by only about 4.5 miles), and carved the date, the initials of Governor Endicott, and the initials of the rest of the surveyors into a rock along the water, declaring all of the land south of that line of latitude and west of the Merrimack River to be part of Massachusetts.

Although this was an apparent windfall for Massachusetts, it caused controversy between them and New Hampshire, as this border would have given Massachusetts a sizable chunk of present-day New Hampshire.  In fact, though, the actual source of the Merrimack River is much further north, at the headwaters of the Pemigewasset River at Franconia Notch, which means if the original charter was still in effect today, New Hampshire’s iconic Old Man of the Mountain would have been in Massachusetts.  However, since neither Franconia Notch nor Lake Winnipesaukee would have been reasonable boundary locations, given the intent of the original charter, the border dispute was settled in 1740 by King George II, who declared that the border would run three miles north of the Merrimack River until Pawtucket Falls (present-day Lowell), and then a straight line to the Massachusetts-New York border.

In the ensuing years, Endicott Rock lapsed into obscurity, until it was rediscovered in the first half of the 19th century.  An enclosed structure was later built around it, and today it can still be viewed at Weirs Beach, although it is not visible in these two photos here; they were taken right near the rock, but facing away from it.  Much of Weirs Beach has changed over the years, including the beach itself, which is now much wider and sandier than in 1906.  The area saw several devastating fires over the years, including one that destroyed the S.S. Mount Washington, seen steaming away from the dock on the right-hand side.  However, the Mount Washington‘s successor can be seen in the 2015 photo, docked in the right center area, and many of the historic Veterans’ Association buildings along Lakeside Avenue survive today.

Steamboats on Lake Winnipesaukee in Weirs Beach, NH

The S.S. Lady of the Lake at Weirs Beach, around 1865. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

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The S.S. Mount Washington approaching the same pier around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The M.S. Mount Washington at the same location in 2019:

Lake Winnipesaukee is the third largest lake in New England, and the second largest entirely within the region (Lake Champlain, located on the border of Vermont and New York, is larger than the next 9 largest combined).  Like Lake Champlain, Winnipesaukee has seen a number of steamboats over the years, with one of the first being the Lady of the Lake, which was completed in 1849 and is seen in the first photo.  In the days before automobiles, the easiest way to access most of the towns on the lake was by boat, and much of this traffic in the mid 19th century was carried by the Lady of the Lake.  Here in Weirs Beach, visitors arrived by train to the depot just behind the photographer, and then boarded the steamer to travel to their destination.  The glory days of the Lady of the Lake lasted until 1872, when the larger, faster S.S. Mount Washington entered service.  The older ship continued to operate in a losing battle to compete with the Mount Washington, until she was taken out of service in 1893.  Two years later, she was filled with rocks and sunk, and today the wreck is a popular dive site.

Meanwhile, the Mount Washington continued to be the preferred method of transportation around the lake until the 1920s, when larger numbers of tourists began traveling by automobile.  As a result, the ship’s owners, the Boston & Maine Railroad, sold her to a new owner, who marketed the ship as a tourist attraction instead of simply a method of transportation.  It was a success, and the ship operated until 1939, when a fire at Weirs Beach destroyed the ship, along with the dock, the railroad depot, and the boardwalk.

In 1940, the ship’s owner purchased the S.S. Chateaugay to replace the Mount Washington.  Built in 1888, the Chateaugay was a sidewheel steamboat on Lake Champlain, so transporting it to Winnipesaukee required cutting the hull into 20 pieces and shipping them by rail, where they were reassembled in Lakeport.  Only the hull itself was used; everything else, including the superstructure and even the propulsion system, was replaced.  Renamed the Mount Washington, the rebuilt ship made her first voyage on the lake in August 1940, and has been used for sightseeing cruises ever since.  Aside from the 1940 reconstruction, the ship has been altered several other times, including in 1942, when the steam engines were removed for the war effort.  After the war, the ship was fitted with diesel engines, which in turn were replaced in 2010.  The other major change happened in 1982, when the ship was cut in half and a new 20-foot section of hull was added in the middle.  Because of all of this, the 127-year-old ship bears essentially no resemblance to what she looked like when used as the Chateaugay; the photo below, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, shows the Chateaugay plying the waters of Lake Champlain around 1910-1920:

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New Hotel Weirs, Weirs Beach, NH (3)

Another view of the New Hotel Weirs, from the railroad station across Lakeside Avenue around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

The New Hotel Weirs, as seen in previous posts here and here, was first built in 1880, and subsequent additions in 1896, 1899, and 1905-06 resulted in its appearance in the first photo here.  It was a great location for a hotel in the days before widespread automobile use; guests needed to only step off the train and walk up the walkway from the station.  Just behind the photographer is Lake Winnipesaukee, so once guests arrived they would have enjoyed beautiful views of the lake from the hotel veranda.  Right next to the railroad station is the dock for the S.S. Mount Washington, so from here they could enjoy a sightseeing cruise and visit the other ports on the lake.

Today, the railroad is the only thing left from the first photo, and even it has changed over the years.  With nearly all visitors to the Lakes Region driving rather than taking a train, the station is no longer served by regular passenger trains; instead, the line is operated by the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad, which offers excursion trains along the shore of the lake.  As for the New Hotel Weirs, it and a number of other buildings were destroyed in a fire in 1924, and the site was redeveloped with a motel, cottages, and an arcade.

Veterans’ Association, Weirs Beach, NH (2)

The Veterans’ Association buildings along Lakeside Avenue in Weirs Beach, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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Lakeside Avenue in 2015:

As mentioned in the previous post, Weirs Beach became the annual meeting place for New Hampshire’s Civil War veterans, who established the New Hampshire Veterans’ Association.  Beginning in the 1870s, the organization held its annual reunions here, and over time the different regiments built their own buildings for their members to stay in.  Many of these buildings fronted present-day Lakeside Avenue, as seen in the first photo.  Starting in the foreground is the Headquarters, located at the corner of New Hampshire Avenue, followed by the 3rd Regiment, 7th Regiment, 9th & 11th Regiments, and the Cavalry Headquarters.

All of these buildings were built between 1885 and 1888, and all survive except for the 3rd Regiment Building, which was lost in the same 1924 fire that destroyed the New Hotel Weirs.  The only other significant loss from the first photo is the statue, which was dedicated in 1894 and destroyed by lightning in 1931.  Today, the property is still owned by the New Hampshire Veterans’ Association, and although many other buildings on the site have since been destroyed or demolished, the view along Lakeside Avenue still looks a lot like how it did over a century ago.

Veterans’ Association, Weirs Beach, NH (1)

The Civil War Monument and the entrance to the New Hampshire Veterans’ Association grounds on Lakeside Avenue in Weirs Beach, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

Located on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, the village of Weirs Beach in Laconia became a popular destination in the late 1800s.  Among the many people who traveled north in the summer were the Civil War veterans of the New Hampshire Veterans’ Association, whose reunions were held here.  Over the years, a number of buildings were added to the property, including the Lowell Building, seen in the center of both photos at the top of New Hampshire Avenue.  The sign over the road was added three years later, and in 1885 the Headquarters Building was built to the left, at the corner of Lakeside Avenue and New Hampshire Avenue.  The New Hotel Weirs can be seen on the far right, and the most recent addition to the 1906 scene was the statue, which was dedicated in 1894 in honor of Laommi Bean, a Weirs Beach farmer who was killed in the Civil War.  Today, the sign is long gone, and the statue was struck by lightning and destroyed in 1931. However, the property is still owned by the New Hampshire Veterans’ Association, and many of the historic buildings, including the Headquarters Building and the Lowell Building, have been restored.