Last week, we travelled back roads passing through many small towns in what’s known as the NH Lakes Region and stopping at a few places along this route.
Meredith is located beside Lake Winnipesaukee, the largest lake in the state at 72 square miles. It was first called Palmer's Town for Samuel Palmer, who taught surveying and navigation, and laid out much of the land surrounding Lake Winnipesaukee. In was later renamed named after Sir William Meredith, a member of Parliament who opposed taxation on the colonies.
Farmers grew corn, wheat, rye and potatoes; the area was noted for apple orchards. The outlet of Lake Waukewan provided water power and by 1859, Meredith had a sawmill, gristmill, blacksmith shop, and tannery. It became a summer destination for passengers who arrived by train or steamboat, the most famous was the original SS Mount Washington, launched in 1872. Meredith is also home to the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad. Grenville posted about our excursion earlier.
Wolfeboro is a popular tourist destination because of its proximity to Lake Winnipesaukee,its scenic beauty and its small town New England character. Settled in 1768, it was incorporated in 1770. It's named after General James Wolfe, remembered for his victory over the French in the Battle of Quebec. Colonial Governor John Wentworth built an estate on what’s now called Lake Wentworth. This was the first summer country estate in the area and the basis for Wolfeboro’s claim as the oldest U.S. summer resort.
Like many other New England towns, Wolfeboro was a farming community. Lumber and the growth and sales of apples were a large part of early industry. Wood products remained a major local industry until the early 20th century.
The tourist industry began to flourish in the early 1870s after the Civil War ended. The first major hotel was built in 1850, and others followed. The SS Mt. Washington steamboat also brought in tourists during the summer season. Tourism is still a major industry.
Weirs Beach, or "The Weirs" as locals call it, is the name of a wide, sandy, public beach on Lake Winnipesaukee. Adjacent to the beach and comprising the center of the village are a boulevard and boardwalk that run along a quarter mile stretch of Lakeside Ave. An arcade and seasonal shops are along this stretch.
The main summer port of the Winnipesaukee Flagship Company's MS Mount Washington is located on the boulevard. A large public dock is a popular stop for boaters on Lake Winnipesaukee. Built in 1925, the Winnipesaukee Pier was a popular venue for many of famous big bands of the time, including the Glen Miller Orchestra.
The Mount Washington Hotel – seen above on a rainy day – was was completed in 1902 as one of the largest, most modern grand hotels in the White Mountains. Designed by NY architect Charles Alling Gifford, the hotel was financed by industrialist Joseph Stickney who brought in 250 Italian artisans to construct, particularly the granite and stucco masonry.
Served by as many as 57 trains a day, the hotel became was one of the most luxurious summer resorts in the U.S. and catered to wealthy guests from the east coast cities of Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Up to 50 trains a day stopped at three nearby railroad stations. Omni Hotels & Resorts currently operates and maintains the hotel, which was designated a national Historic Landmark in 1986.