Interesting museums to explore by motorbike — The Laker
By Kathi Caldwell Hopper
If you’re in the Lake District for Bike Week and might be new to the area, you might want to know some great and quirky places to visit during your stay.
Did you know that there is a castle on top of a mountain, open to visitors? Or a museum devoted to life during the Second World War? How about a museum in a beautiful brick mill that interprets, right down to the huge water wheels, how people once worked? Perhaps you would choose to visit a peaceful place where a religious group has lived and worshiped for many years?
These are just a few of the area’s wonderful museums and attractions that you can visit during Bike Week (or any time of the season).
Starting at the historic Belknap Mill on Beacon Street East in downtown Laconia, you can tour the first floor of the old 1823 mill. You’ll learn when and why the mill was built, how it served as a textile company, which machines were used and much more.
According to information from www.belknapmill.org, the 1823 mill began working in 1828 and replaced a wooden mill owned by Caniel Avery and earlier, Stephen Perley. Investors who operated factories in Lowell, Massachusetts, replaced the original building with a modern industrial structure at the time. Lowell was a major location for large mills at this time, and Belknap’s Mill copied a mill built in 1813 in Waltham, Massachusetts. The Waltham Mill was the first in America to complete the entire textile manufacturing process, from raw cotton to finished fabric, in one place.
Belknap’s factory was built of brick in a post-and-beam style. Wooden columns support the open floor plan and exposed joists (horizontal beams) support the floors and ceilings. The multiple windows and the “double roof” provided natural light before the era of electricity. A water wheel originally powered cloth weaving machines, and it is the gigantic wheel in the wheelhouse of the Belknap Mill that will amaze visitors today.
The historic Belknap Mill is the only remaining example of such a structure. While other such factories have been destroyed or altered over time, the exterior of Belknap’s factory remains unchanged. The bell for the tower was cast by George Holbrook, an apprentice of Paul Revere.
The mill has a knitting machine exhibit, a Powerhouse exhibit, and the building itself is well worth stopping in for a visit. In addition to this, there is a gallery on the first floor with changing art exhibits. On select Friday nights at 6 p.m., Rotary Park, next to the mill, offers free outdoor concerts. Bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit on.
For information on Belknap’s factory hours of operation, call 603-534-8813 or visit www.belknapmill.org.
If you’re in the area for Bike Week, a stop at the Northeast Motor Sports Museum at 922 N. Route 106 in Loudon (near the New Hampshire Motor Speedway), has plenty to offer visitors. The museum is a gem and features exhibits of helmets, engines, vintage racing apparel, trophies and cars. It also contains memorabilia from the days of racing – both in cars and motorbikes – past.
A fundraiser for the museum will be held on June 12 when the AMA-sanctioned Gypsy Tour begins at the Laconia Motorcycle Week rally headquarters on Lakeshore Avenue in Weirs Beach. Registration for the Gypsy Tour begins at 9 a.m. and leaves the weirs around 10:30 a.m. on June 12. The tour is a police escorted ride from the rally headquarters in Laconia to the Museum/Speedway.
For more information on this fun museum, visit www.nemsmuseum.com or call 603-783-0183 for hours and admission prices.
A castle on top of a mountain with a breathtaking view? A place built by a contractor in the early 1900s. Hiking trails and a meal in a sidewalk cafe? All of this and more is accessible to the public at Castle in the Clouds on Rt. 171/455 Old Mountain Road in Moultonborough.
Enjoy a ride from Weirs Beach on Rt. 3 to Meredith and on Rt. 25 to the Castle. Once on the mountain road there are plenty of parking spaces and a short walk to the coach house where you can view the annual exhibition interpreting life at the castle during the day of the original owner, Thomas Plant. Buy tickets to visit the castle and take a trolley up, up, up the road to the mansion.
Once at the castle, take a tour inside the beautiful estate, where Thomas lived year-round with his wife, Olive. The house was quite inventive for its time, with appliances installed to make the servants’ lives easier and more productive. The exterior of the estate, with incredible views, is one you won’t easily forget.
The grounds are expansive and you can hike trails and grab a meal at the Carriage House restaurant or grab lunch at the convenient cafe in the Clouds building for a light lunch and of course, ice cream.
The Château is open Thursday to Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information and a calendar of events, visit www.castleintheclouds.org or call 603-476-5900.
There is no doubt that the Second World War will remain in the memory of many people and the stories of this painful period have been passed down from generation to generation. To see the stories told through artifacts, old photos, and stories, plan to visit the Wright World War II Museum at 77 Center St. in Wolfeboro.
The Wright Museum is unique and unforgettable. The collection is extensive and covers the years from 1939 to 1945, when the war started and raged, until the end of the conflict. With over 14,000 objects in the home front and battlefield collection, visitors can see how people from all walks of life – movie stars, average families and of course, the soldiers who fight for our freedom, have lived. during these years. There are also fully operational military vehicles, and the size and range of the vehicles brings to life how the battles were fought.
Special exhibitions this year include the covers of The Saturday Evening Post from 1941-1946: The Art of Mead Schaeffer, Norman Rockwell and Friends. The exhibition runs until June 22.
Next is the exhibition Let Me By Myself: The Life Story of Anne Frank. The show runs from July 1 to October 31. If you plan to be in the area beyond Bike Week, and here July 1 or thereabouts, visit the life-size images of Anne’s world during the war.
In addition to exhibits, visitors can attend lectures, special events and more. There’s plenty of parking at the museum, and after a visit, plan to have lunch or dinner in Wolfeboro. There are many restaurants, some overlooking the lake. Visit www.wrightmuseum.org or call 603-569-1212. The museum is open daily during summer and fall.
Do you like boating and a variety of boats from the early days to the present day? While in Wolfeboro, stop by the New Hampshire Boat Museum at 399 Center Street for a step back in time when boats were wooden, finely crafted and fun to see and comfortably drive.
The museum began in 1992 when a group of vintage boat enthusiasts wanted to preserve and share the heritage of boating on the state’s waterways. In 2000, the museum was installed and it is a place for the presentation of exhibitions and nautical workshops each summer season.
You’ll love the exhibit space, which is housed in a large round-roofed structure that was once part of the Allen A Resort. During your visit, you will enter a huge exhibition space with beautiful old wooden boats, old photos and replica boats on display. You’ll also take part in programs and workshops, and you can book a walking tour of the museum Millie B, which is located and offers rides on the Wolfeboro town docks. The 28 footer. in mahogany, the triple “woodie” cockpit is a replica of Hacker-Craft from 1928, faithful to the colors of the seats. Roll in the Millie Byou will experience the golden age of boating, when these boats ruled the freshwater lakes.
Visit the museum at www.nhbm.org or call 603-569-4554.
If you want to spend a few hours or a whole day doing something completely different, visit Canterbury Shaker Village at 288 Shaker Road in Canterbury. You will feel peace and tranquility as soon as you enter the grounds of this special place. The community was established in 1792, when supporters of leader Mother Ann Lee established the seventh Shaker gathering place. The religious group remained in existence for 200 years. When the last living Shaker sister, Ethel Hudson, died, it began operating as a museum (in 1992).
As you walk around and admire the magnificent buildings, you will be amazed at the scope and scale of the peaceful village, where 300 people once lived and worked. There were many buildings and approximately 3,000 acres in the Canterbury Shaker community, all dedicated to living in peace and following a system of religious beliefs. It was their generosity to “the people of the world,” as they called foreigners, that set the Shakers apart. Not to mention their craftsmanship in everything they made, from Shaker baskets to woodworking and building their buildings.
You can visit the village, learn how the Shakers lived, shop in the village store and feel the peace and quiet of this special place. There are also guided tours from Tuesday to Sunday; visit www.shakers.org for more information or call 603-783-9511.