The History of New Hampshire's Weirs Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee

Weirs Beach Has Been Inhabited For Thousands of Years

Today, Weirs beach is one of the fun hotspots on Lake Winnipesaukee with great food, a boardwalk full of fun activities for the whole family, and the home of the M/S Mount Washington every summer. But did you know that this valuable piece of real estate has a history stretching back thousands of years?

The Original Summer "Resort"

Recent archaeological expeditions at the beach have found that Native Americans used the area as a summer camp for hunting and fishing dating back to 8000 BC. The native Abenaqui of the Penacook tribe called their village Aquedoctan, meaning “place of good fishing.”

In fact, this popular summer resort actually got its name from the particular type of basket the Native Americans used to trap the shad that migrated through the channel on their way from Lake Winnipesaukee to the Merrimac River, to the sea. These fish traps were called “WEIRS” and went into the channel to prevent the shad from moving through the channel to the river.

Then, in 1652, an expedition sent by Governor Endicott of the Massachusetts Bay Colony followed the Merrimac from its mouth, located in what is now Newburyport. Arriving at Lake Winnipesaukee at Weirs channel, they carved their initials into a rock, Endicott Rock, to mark the northern boundary of the colony. The stone is still there today, protected by a monument erected in 1892. The first white settlers arrived in 1736, with the construction of a fort. This was the end of the Native American habitation of Weirs.

The Arrival of The Tourists

By 1848, the Boston, Concord and Montreal railroad arrived in Weirs and with it, New England tourists. Within a few years, Weirs had become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. 

In 1849, seeing the increase in passengers visiting Weirs, the Boston, Concord & Maine railroad purchased the steamship “The Lady of the Lake”. From her homeport in Weirs, The Lady of the Lake offered regular steamship service to the ports of Wolfeboro, Center Harbor, and Alton Bay, until her last service in 1893. In 1872, the competing B&M railroad began service on the lake, launching the Mount Washington. It was the longer, faster, and more luxurious ship, and soon dominated passenger service serving 60,000 passengers each year.

By the turn of the 20thcentury, four express trains each day left Boston bound for Weirs. Train travel reached its peak in 1915. As the age of the automobile began in earnest, train service from Boston started a long, slow decline, finally stopping in 1960.

By the 1920s Weirs was THE vacation destination for New Englanders with its busy railroad station, a beautiful grand hotel on the beach, a boardwalk, and a large dance pavilion. Then two fires would change everything.

The End of an Era

In 1924, a devastating fire destroyed the Grand Hotel Weirs. Then, in 1939 a second fire would end steam travel on Lake Winnipesaukee. On a cold December night, a fire at the railway station quickly spread down the ramp to the winter berth of the Mount Washington. There were attempts to free her, but the water level was low, and she was grounded in the mud. The ship, boardwalk and railway station all were destroyed entirely, marking the end of an era.

Captain Leander Lavallee set out to rebuild the vessel. Unfortunately, it was wartime, and raw materials were being used for the war effort, making it impossible to save the ship. However, after a diligent search throughout New England, he found a vessel on Lake Champlain, The Chateauguay, a 203-foot long vessel that was built in 1888.

In April of 1940, four months after the devastating fire, he had found his vessel, cut it into 20 pieces, transported it by railcar to Lakeport and rebuilt her with a new steel superstructure and twin 750 horsepower diesel engines. Christened the SS Mount Washington II, she was relaunched into service, where she still takes visitors on sightseeing cruises around Lake Winnipesaukee departing from Weirs Beach every day from May thru October.

In the 1940s, an effort had begun to rebuild after the devastating fire, and a new hotel was constructed. Before the 1950s, the beach as we know it today did not exist. Visitors would enter the water from the rocky shoreline at Endicott Park and swim to one of two diving rafts anchored offshore. It was around this time that local businessmen, led by Ed Hoagland, owner of the Lakeview House began to petition to construct the beach that is there today, and in November 1955 the Weirs city council change the name to Weirs Beach. And a resort was reborn!

Weirs Beach Today

Today, Weirs Beach is once again a dominant vacation destination drawing visitors from throughout the Northeast and around the world! With fine dining, luxury accommodations, charming bed and breakfasts, the boardwalk, arcades, nightlife, great shopping and of course, the beach, Weirs Beach is a great place to bring the entire family for a true New England summer vacation!

If you're planning a vacation on Lake Winnipesaukee, make sure to visit the M/S Mount Washington ticket office to experience a unique view of New Hampshire's crown jewel! Cruises depart from the town dock in Weirs Beach several times each day from May to October. Don't miss our spectacular Sunday Brunch cruise leaving Alton Bay.

If you're planning an event, wedding, company outing, or would like to arrange a private charter, give us a call at (603) 366-5531 and let us help you plan a memorable event you'll be talking about for years to come!


  • Ms. Dale Bowden

    My parents were married in 1948, and each year they would go to lake Winnipesaukee on their anniversary. They always had a wonderful time and brought us back souvenirs. I live in Florida now but hope someday to visit the lake. Thank you for this wonderful history!

  • Robert t Beauchemin

    I witnessed the reincarnation from 1956 thru 1980… I was Blessed

  • Wayne McDonald

    I’ve been coming to bike week for many years ,this was the first time taking the cruise around the lake it was beautiful. This article was a good insight into the history of the beach few bikers get to know thanks . I’m from Halifax Nova Scotia Canada

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