Laconia is a city in Belknap County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 15,951 at the 2010 census, and an estimated 16,470 as of 2016. It is the county seat of Belknap County. Laconia, situated between Lake Winnipesaukee and Winnisquam Lake, includes the villages of Lakeport and Weirs Beach. Each June for nine days beginning on the Saturday of the weekend before Father's Day and ending on Father's Day, the city hosts Laconia Motorcycle Week, also more simply known as 'bike week', one of the country's largest rallies, and each winter, the Laconia World Championship Sled Dog Derby. The city is also the site of the state's annual Pumpkin Festival since 2015, having organized it after its former home of Keene rejected it due to riots in their neighborhoods in 2014. The city also includes one of the colleges of the Community College System of New Hampshire.
A large Abenaki Indian settlement called Acquadocton Village once existed at the point now known as The Weirs, named by colonists for fishing weirs discovered at the outlet of the Winnipesaukee River. Early explorers had hoped to follow the Piscataqua River north to Lake Champlain in search of the great lakes and rivers of Canada mentioned in Indian folklore. About 1652, the Endicott surveying party visited the area, an event commemorated by Endicott Rock, a local landmark. A fort would be built at Laconia in 1746. But ongoing hostilities between the English, French, and their respective Native American allies prevented settlement until 1761, after which it remained for many years a part of Meredith and Gilford called Meredith Bridge.
Beginning in 1765, lumber and grist mills were established on Mill Street, with taverns built soon thereafter on Parade Street. About 1822, the courthouse was built, which would become county seat at the creation of Belknap County in 1840. In 1823, the Belknap Mill was built to manufacture textiles; in operation by 1828, the structure is today a museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest unaltered brick textile mill in the country. Local industry produced lumber, textiles, shoes, hosiery, knitting machinery and needles. But the city's largest employer would be the Laconia Car Company, builder of rail, trolley and subway cars. Started in 1848, it lasted until the 1930s. The railroad entered town in 1849, carrying both freight and an increasing number of summer tourists to popular Weirs Beach.
In 1855, Laconia was incorporated as a town from land in Meredith Bridge, Lakeport, Weirs and part of Gilmanton. The name was probably derived from the old Laconia Company, formed by Captain John Mason and the Masonian Proprietors to sell parcels of land during the colonial era. The Great Fire of 1860 destroyed most of Main Street from Mill to Water streets, followed by the Great Lakeport Fire of 1903, a blaze so fierce that fire companies were brought by train from as far away as Dover. Laconia was incorporated as a city in 1893.
Laconia is located northwest of the geographic center of Belknap County. The city lies at the center of New Hampshire's Lakes Region, and all or part of four major bodies of water lie within its limits: Lake Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam Lake, Opechee Bay and Paugus Bay (sometimes counted as an arm of Winnipesaukee, but historically a separate body of water).
Laconia's downtown is located along the Winnipesaukee River between Opechee Bay to the north and Winnisquam Lake to the southwest. Other villages within the city limits include Lakeport, at the north end of Opechee Bay, and Weirs Beach, around the channel connecting Paugus Bay with Lake Winnipesaukee.
U.S. Route 3 passes through parts of the city, bypassing downtown but passing through Weirs Beach. New Hampshire Route 11 bypasses the city in a concurrency with US 3. The two highways lead southwest from Laconia to Tilton and Franklin. New Hampshire Route 11A represents the old routes 11 and 3 through downtown as Court Street and Union Avenue, turning east on Gilford Avenue to lead to Gilford and West Alton. New Hampshire Route 106 runs north-south through downtown, leading south to Concord and north to Meredith. New Hampshire Route 107 leads southeast from downtown towards Gilmanton and Pittsfield. Route 107 turns north in downtown and follows Union Avenue (former Route 3) to a junction with US 3 near the north end of the Laconia Bypass. US 3 continues north along the east shore of Paugus Bay, through Weirs Beach and into Meredith. Route 11 leads east from the Laconia Bypass past Glendale and into Alton. New Hampshire Route 11B leads east from Weirs Beach into Gilford.
Laconia Municipal Airport is located just east of the city limits in Gilford.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 26.6 square miles (68.8 km2), of which 20.0 square miles (51.9 km2) is land and 6.5 square miles (16.9 km2) is water, comprising 24.54% of the city. Laconia is drained by the Winnipesaukee River. It is bounded in the southwest by Winnisquam Lake, and by Lake Winnipesaukee in the northeast. Laconia lies fully within the Merrimack River watershed. The highest point in Laconia is a 960-foot (290 m) hill in the northern part of the city, west of Paugus Bay's Pickerel Cove and just east of Route 106.
As of the census of 2000, there were 16,411 people, 6,724 households, and 4,168 families residing in the city. The population density was 809.3 people per square mile (312.4/km²). There were 8,554 housing units at an average density of 421.8 per square mile (162.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 96.79% White, 0.55% African American, 0.41% Native American, 0.73% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.27% from other races, and 1.22% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.99% of the population.
There were 6,724 households out of which 28.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.4% were married couples living together, 11.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.0% were non-families. 30.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.87.
In the city, the population was spread out with 22.3% under the age of 18, 8.8% from 18 to 24, 28.1% from 25 to 44, 23.5% from 45 to 64, and 17.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 94.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,796, and the median income for a family was $45,307. Males had a median income of $31,714 versus $22,818 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,540. About 7.5% of families and 8.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.9% of those under age 18 and 5.3% of those age 65 or over.
Laconia is governed by a mayor-council and city manager system. The Mayor and council are elected in a citywide vote, while the city manager is hired by the council. The council consists of six members who are elected from the six single-member wards.
In the New Hampshire Senate, Laconia is in the 7th District, represented by Republican Harold French. On the New Hampshire Executive Council, Laconia is in the 1st District, represented by Republican Joe Kenney. In the United States House of Representatives, Laconia is in New Hampshire's 1st congressional district, represented by Democrat Carol Shea-Porter.
Laconia's public school system is run by the Laconia School District, School Administrative Unit 30.
Laconia School District has one public high school, one middle school and three elementary schools:
There are two parochial schools within the city limits of Laconia:
There is one area institution of higher education with a total enrollment of approximately 1000 students:
Laconia is home to the Laconia Muskrats of the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL). The franchise began play in 2010 at Robbie Mills Field in Laconia. Starting in the 2014-15 season, the city will be home to the New Hampshire Fighting Spirit of the Northern States Junior Hockey League (NSHL).
One of the largest motorcycle rallies in the world takes place in Laconia during nine days in June, ending on Father's Day. Founded in 1923, attendance was 375,000 in 2004 and 188,000 in 2010. Events include races, shows, and a motorcycle hill climb competition.
After the city council of Keene, New Hampshire, rejected the permit for their annual Pumpkin Festival to be held there following riots in the city's neighborhoods in 2014, it was announced that Laconia would host the festival for the city's first time in 2015. The twenty-fifth New Hampshire Pumpkin Fest was held on October 24, 2015 with less than ten thousand jack-o'-lanterns lit. The festival will be held in Laconia again in 2017, establishing the city as the new official venue for the annual event.
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