About the Mill
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The Belknap Mill is:
- The Official Meetinghouse of the State of New Hampshire.
- The oldest unaltered brick textile mill in the U.S.
- The only industrial knitting museum in the U.S.
- The Lakes Region's year-round art and history center
- A four-story building incorporating a museum, art gallery, concert hall and event facilities
Built in 1823, the Belknap Mill is the only building left that represents the first stage of the Industrial Revolution in America. It is the oldest, unaltered brick textile mill in the United States. The Belknap Mill was one of the first mills to convert from weaving to knitting during the Civil War.
One of the first listed buildings on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, the Belknap Mill shows how preservation and history can combine in a community based museum and cultural arts center.
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The Belknap Mill has recently adopted a new logo and tagline, "Where Art and History Come to Life!", to emphasize its relevance to the 21st century.
The logo includes the words Arts ⋅ History ⋅ Education to illustrate its three-pronged mission to Central New Hampshire.
Belknap Mill Society
The Belknap Mill operated as a textile factory until 1969. Ready to be demolished by the City of Laconia as part of a plan to revitalize downtown, a group citizens led by Peter Karagianis and Arthur Nighswander, acting under the banner of “Save the Mill Society”, purchased the building from the owners. Because of the national significance of the building, local citizens worked with historic preservationists across the country to form a nonprofit organization called the Belknap Mill Society preserve and maintain the building as a cultural center. Preserving mill structures was a new field and most of Laconia's residents looked on the effort with skepticism. The Society acquired federal funds and raised more than $500,000 to acquire and preserve the building. The Belknap Mill Society was the first organization to receive federal funds and a national award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for preserving an industrial structure. LIFE magazine, Yankee Magazine and even the cartoon strip Archie chronicled the effort.
In 1976, the Belknap Mill was designated as the Official Meetinghouse of New Hampshire because of the architectural, geographical and historical significance of the building. As the state's Official Meetinghouse, the Belknap Mill has hosted all of the presidential contenders in the national primaries.
In 1991, the Society opened the nation's first permanent exhibit on industrial knitting. Today, visitors see operating knitting machines, the 1918 hydroelectric power system, changing art and history exhibits and attend concerts and lectures.
In 2012, Society completed a five year strategic plan and a three year development plan to guide the board in developing support, preservation and programming.
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Click for More History of the Mill ...
- Adopted as Official Meetinghouse of New Hampshire by the State of New Hampshire in 1976
- Official Project of Save America's Treasures, designated by the White House Millennium Commission (1999)
- National Award for Museum Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (1998)
- Walter J. Dunfey Award for Excellence in Management from the Corporate Fund of the NH Charitable Foundation (1991) - Cited in 1989 and 1990
- Certificates of Commendation for Exhibits and Programs from the American Association for State and Local History (1994, 1998)
- Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation (1981)