FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 12, 2020
Shelly Angers, N.H. Department of Natural & Cultural Resources
Colonial Theatre complex in Laconia named to National Register of Historic Places
The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources has announced that the Colonial Theatre complex in Laconia has been honored by the United States Secretary of the Interior with placement on the National Register of Historic Places for both its architecture and for its role as a center of entertainment and commerce from the time it was built in 1914 into the 21st century.
The Colonial Theatre complex is the largest of several mixed-use blocks that were built in downtown Laconia in the first quarter of the twentieth century. With its primary entrance on Main Street, the complex includes three sections: the Piscopo Block, Colonial Theatre and Canal Street Annex.
The complex’s most prominent feature is the theater’s 1930s marquee, which hangs over the main entrance of Piscopo Block and is topped by a two-story blade-style sign that spells out “Colonial.”
The theater’s entrance and lobby retain a majority of their original historic finishes and decorative details, including a pair of twelve-light mahogany-stained birch doors with brass hardware, Vermont marble wainscoting, terrazzo floors and ticket booths with arched windows.
The theater space still has its original layout, with an overhanging balcony, orchestra pit and two-tiered box seating at the front of the auditorium. Restored details include the original gilded plaster ornaments, frescoes, high coffered ceiling decorated with images of high arts and floral designs, woodwork and a “1914” medallion centered above the stage.
Storefronts in the Piscopo Block and Canal St. Annex maintain their original recessed entries and are flanked by glass display windows. Prism glass transoms above the entrances to the storefronts and the theater, patented by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1897 and made by the Luxfer Prism Company, enhance the entrance of natural light.
The complex has undergone several reversible changes, including converting the theater space into a five-screen multiplex in the 1980s and alterations to the layout of the office and residential spaces on the second and third floors of the Piscopo Block.
In an effort for the property to be eligible for the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program, rehabilitation work at the complex is following the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. Being named to the National Register of Historic Places is a required step for a property to be eligible for federal tax incentives.
Benjamin Piscopo, the original developer of the Colonial Theater complex, was a stone cutter from Italy who emigrated to Boston. He became a successful real estate developer and moved to Laconia, where he developed a number of the city’s business buildings and was an investor in the Tavern Hotel.
Administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of historic resources worthy of preservation and is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect our historic and archaeological resources.
Listing to the National Register does not impose any new or additional restrictions or limitations on the use of private or non-federal properties. Listings identify historically significant properties and can serve as educational tools and increase heritage tourism opportunities. The rehabilitation of National Register-listed commercial or industrial buildings may qualify for certain federal tax provisions.
In New Hampshire, listing to the National Register makes applicable property owners eligible for grants such as the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program or LCHIP (lchip.org) and the Conservation License Plate Program (nh.gov/nhdhr/grants/moose).
For more information on the National Register program in New Hampshire, please visit nh.gov/nhdhr or contact the Division of Historical Resources at 603-271-3583.
New Hampshire’s Division of Historical Resources, the State Historic Preservation Office, was established in 1974 and is part of the N.H. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. NHDHR’s mission is to preserve and celebrate New Hampshire’s irreplaceable historic resources through programs and services that provide education, stewardship, and protection. For more information, visit us online at nh.gov/nhdhr or by calling 603-271-3483.