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.
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…