The Lakes Region of New Hampshire is a beautiful area and popular vacation
destination. Anyone who'd like to better understand the history of the lake -
and the eight communities that border it - would enjoy the Lake
Winnipesaukee Historical Society Museum.
The mission statement of the organization is to "promote and preserve the
history and heritage of Lake Winnipesaukee and vicinity". I can't imagine a
better ambassador than Executive Director Ann Sprague.
Ann's passion for the history of the Lake Winnipesaukee area was evident as
she told me about the Historical Society's museum.
Bob Lawton and his son, Tim, founded the historical society in 1985. The two
men had lived in the area for years, on the lake, and one their goals was to
open a museum.
The museum opened in 2004, part-time. In 2005, Ann came aboard and
since then it has been open five days a week, year-round.
The museum property has a rich history itself. It was once owned by David
O'Shan; native of the area, a World War I veteran, and state legislator. He
had a poultry farm there, and later, a "cabin colony" on the site. The
building that houses the museum was main residence, and the other
cottages on the property were reserved for visitors.
Ann gave me a guided tour of the exhibits. One was Souvenirs From the
Past, a collection of paperweights, plates, postcards and other memorabilia
collected by tourists who vacationed in the area over the last 150 years.
Water skiing was a popular activity on the lake after World War II, Ann said.
The Water Skiing on Winnipesaukee and the Weirs Ski Club Exhibit features trophiesand other memorabilia from that era. Photos show some of the top skiers of the time performing stunts and competing in tournaments.
I really enjoyed The Steamboat Era Exhibit, a tribute to the time when
steamboats roamed the lake. The era ended in 1939 when the old Mount
Washington Steamer was destroyed by fire. The fire, which started in a small
restaurant, traveled down the pier to the boat and destroyed it.
At one time, over 100 summer girls' and boys' camps were in operation
around the lake. Only about 12 camps, mostly run by agencies like the
YMCA, are still in operation today. The camps' heyday is chronicled in Summer Camps on Lake Winnipesaukee.
"I encourage everyone to rediscover Lake Winnipesaukee by visiting our year-round museum," Ann said. "Especially if the weather isn't quite right to enjoy the lake firsthand, you'll be able to reminisce about your good times through the many images on display.
The museum offers much more than I described here, including a Kid's
Corner, special collections like the 18 Jim Beam Commemorative bottles,
and special events, like a Classic Car Cruise. You'll find Ann to be an
excellent host, generous with information and eager to hear people's stories
about the area. She calls the museum a "tour around the lake".
The Lake Winnipesaukee Historical Society preserves and promotes the history and heritage of Lake Winnipesaukee and vicinity. It fulfills this mission through its Lake Winnipesaukee Museum, which is open all year, Tuesday-Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and is located on Route 3 in the Weirs section of Laconia, NH, next door to Funspot. For more information, call: 603-366-5950 or visit their website.
Lake Winnipesaukee Historical Society
PO Box 5386
503 Endicott Street North
Weirs, NH 03247