-- Rts 3 & 11
AKA Weirs Beach
following commentary is provided by Nate Coggeshall-Beyea who
has extensively studied and documented the history and development
of Howard Johnson's in New Hampshire:
as a Dutchland Farms restaurant in roughly 1934, the Laconia store
enjoyed a very colorful history. It was initially located in Laconia,
at the intersection of Route 3 (Daniel Webster Highway) and Route
11. As the largest city in the Lakes Region, Laconia had become
a popular destination for motorists by the 1930s. The natural
beauty of nearby Paugus Bay and Lake Winnipesaukee had long been
Laconia’s greatest attraction, drawing in tourists far and
wide to the city. The Route 3 and Route 11 intersection, locally
known as McIntyre Circle, was another gateway, tying the Lakes
Region to the seacoast, the White Mountains, and points south.
Thousands of motorists would pass through this interchange each
year, on their way to the lakes for the summer and the north country
for skiing in the winter. It is no wonder then that Dutchland
Farms picked this specific location to erect one of its roadside
restaurants nor any surprise that HJ later sought to incorporate
this franchise into its emerging empire.
first known listing for HJ at this location was 1938. For approximately
ten years, McIntyre Circle was a very viable location for HJ.
Meanwhile, about three miles north on Route 3, Weirs Beach was
fast becoming a hot spot for summer tourists and vacationers.
Traffic flow was increasing dramatically through this area, drawing
in restaurants, gas stations, and shops. By the late 1940s, traffic
flow at Weirs Beach was far supplanting traffic flow at McIntyre
Circle. As a result, HJ moved the Laconia store to Weirs Beach
in the late 1940s, constructing a new neocolonial style building
to house the relocated restaurant. The new structure was similar
in shape and form to Hooksett,
a single dining room structure, with a Portsmouth style cupola,
three large dormers with rectangular windows, and a square-closed
entrance way. It is believed that at least the cylinder and cone
portion of the cupola were moved from the Laconia location. The
Orleans type sign that was erected at the new site surely was
moved from the old location.
Weirs Beach store was situated on Route 3, directly across from
Lakeside Avenue, the main entrance to Weirs Beach. A large flashing
neon sign reading “Weirs Beach” was positioned at
this intersection, capturing the attention of motorists traveling
along Route 3. Likewise, the entrance to the Weirs Beach Drive-In
movie theater ran alongside the HJ property, drawing in motorists.
Thus, in locating its store adjacent to this intersection, neon
sign, and movie theater, HJ had claimed the best possible real
estate in the area, assuring that everyone passing through would
see its restaurant. For this very reason, HJ dominated the landscape
here for many years.
In the mid-1960s, the Weirs Beach store received a makeover. Different
from Hooksett, this location was shorn of its neocolonial cupola
and dormers as well as its sign. In place, a new Nims Two style
cupola was added along with a trapezoid type sign, topped with Simple
Simon and the Pieman. At one point, in the late 1960s or early 1970s,
the roof was painted gray for a time but was subsequently returned
to original orange. Another makeover came in 1975, when the restaurant
was expanded considerably on the right-hand side. The railroad station
from the defunct Steam Village in nearby Gilford was moved to Weirs
Beach to become a part of the HJ complex. Steam Village was a narrow
gauge tourist railroad that operated for a couple of seasons in
the mid-1960s, located about a mile east of McIntyre Circle on Route
11. Its railroad station (originally from a rail line in Massachusetts)
had stood vacant in Gilford since tourist operations had ceased.
As a welcomed addition to HJ, the station housed the new Gandy Dancer
Saloon, a bar and tavern featuring a railroading theme.
the early 1980s, the Weirs Beach store was sold by its original
owners, who had owned the franchise since its opening in 1934. Shortly
thereafter, the new owner dropped the HJ franchise and renamed the
complex the Weirs Beach Family Restaurant and Gandy Dancer Saloon.
The top part of the cupola was removed, as was standard practice
for Nims Two style cupolas when restaurants were re-branded, and
the trapezoid sign was encased in a new wooden sign for the new
restaurant. A sign featuring the words “HAV-A-BITE”
was also added above the front entrance. Much like Hooksett, this
location’s reincarnation was only short-lived. The entire
complex burned to the ground on October 7th, 1984, and although
the new owner had planned to rebuild, this never occurred. Today,
the location remains a vacant lot, used on occasion for bus parking
and outdoor vendor space. The covered-over trapezoid sign is the
only HJ relic that has survived the course of time, now serving
as a signpost for the nearby Weirs Beach Lobster Pound.