How and when was the congregation founded?
The First Universalist Society was founded in 1838 by 28 people. The church location within Laconia has changed a few times during our history. We have been in the same location for the last 75 years.
What are the most important events in the congregation's history?
Our current building was completed in 1940, just after the congregation celebrated its centennial. In 1961 the congregation became the Unitarian Universalist Society of Laconia. In 1995, the Society voted to become a welcoming congregation, welcoming people of all sexual orientations to worship with us.
Our congregation was organized as the First Universalist Society in July 1838 by twenty-three charter members. Its first meeting house was erected on Union Avenue in Laconia. In 1867 the Society was reorganized and became the First Unitarian Society. Its new building was built in downtown Laconia at the corner of Main and Hanover streets and served as a community landmark for many years. Sadly, this building was destroyed by fire in 1938. The present building on Pleasant Street was dedicated on September 22, 1940. After the merger of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America in 1961 the congregation changed its name to the Unitarian Universalist Society of Laconia. "Liberality in opinion is universally acknowledged... as a generous and amiable trait in the character of the individual; if it gives loveliness to the secular concerns of people why should it not be permitted to add grace and luster to religion?" From the preamble to the article of organization of Laconia's first Universalist society, 1838.
There’s an interesting exhibit upstairs at the Laconia Library on a history of ships named Laconia. In 1911 a cruise ship of the Cunard line was christened The Laconia, but it was torpedoed in 1917 which factored in the start of WWI.
In 1922 Cunard launched a new “Laconia” luxury liner. It was converted to a troop ship, at the beginning of WWII and all the fittings were removed, including the china. The ship was destroyed by a German sub in 1942, but the china remains. Somehow it came into the possession of the Unitarian Universalist Society. We lent a place setting to be included in the exhibit. It would be interesting to know its journey to our church, but that may be lost in the midst of history.