The Perley Canal Mill sits on the former site of the Allen-Rogers Mill, which was part of the Laconia Car Company Complex located off Water Street and Beacon Street West. The Perley Canal Mill is on the actual Perley Canal. Between 1800 and 1830, Stephen Perley built a canal to carry water from the river above the Avery Dam to power mills. Perley was a farmer who also managed a general store and several sawmills. As the town grew, he established shops that made nails, starch, linseed oil and cotton cloth. The Perley Canal connects the Winnipesaukee River, near Church Street, to the complex once owned by the Laconia Car Company. Today, the canal is a concrete tunnel that runs beneath the city and ends right at the property line along the Riverwalk.
The Laconia Car Company first established operations on the site in 1848. The complex included 54 buildings with woodworking shops, foundries, painting shops and warehouses on 14 acres. By 1899, the company was consuming 4 million feet of lumber per year to make railroad cars and later trolley cars. By 1912, the industry was the city’s largest employer, with 1,000 workers. After the company closed in the early 1930s, the site was divided into other businesses. Allen-Rogers owned a large portion of the site (5.6 acres) from 1934 to 1999. Its factory made a variety of wood turned products, including golf tees, furniture parts, toys, games and eggs for an annual children’s program at the White House. New owners closed the company in 1998 and sold its water rights to Algonquin Power Systems Inc., which maintains the Avery Dam. The mill was vacant until 2003 and had been damaged by a small fire in one of the mill buildings when it was sold to Chinburg Properties for redevelopment. The apartments that are currently being renovated represent one of the final phases of this project that transformed the vacant mill buildings into beautiful, modern places for people to live in downtown Laconia. (Excerpted from the NH DES and the Laconia River Walk guide)