Goss Reading Room
About 1890, a citizens group established a public library in Lakeport, then a village in the town of Gilford. In 1893, when Lakeport was annexed to the new city of Laconia, the Lakeport Library became a branch of the Laconia Public Library. This Lakeport branch was housed in rented quarters, never having a separate building of its own. Therefore, when the Gale Memorial Library was opened in downtown Laconia in June of 1903, the books of the Lakeport branch were moved to the new city library and merged into the main library collection.
A system for exchanging library books at a Lakeport store was subsequently established, but Lakeport no longer had a library of its own with a reading room for the use and pleasure of its residents.
Dr. Ossian Wilbur Goss
For Dr. Ossian Wilbur Goss of Lakeport, this was apparently a significant loss. Dr. Goss and Lakeport had suffered another major loss on May 26, 1903, just two weeks before the closing of the Lakeport library, when a catastrophic fire destroyed a large section of Lakeport. Among the 108 dwellings lost was the Goss family home at the corner of Elm and Franklin Street. Dr. Goss soon made plans for building "an elegant residence," a brick Colonial-style house, at this prominent site. However, his will, signed September 16, 1903, reveals his plans for the future of the new house was unusual. Dr. Goss had no natural heirs, his wife, and only child having died some years before. In his will, after leaving a small bequest to friends, relatives, and local charities, he directed that the remainder of his estate be turned over to three trustees who were instructed to invest the same and use the income only in furnishing, equipping and maintaining the homestead house about to erected in said Lakeport, suitable Reading Parlors for the use and enjoyment of the general public of Lakeport, to be forever known as "The Ossian Wilbur Goss Reading Rooms."
The reading rooms were "to be kept open at all seasonable hours" and "to provide with all the latest magazines and at least three daily papers." Then in a foreboding clause, the physician stated that "if, for any reason, I have not erected my homestead house at the time of my decease, then... I also give the said trustee full power out of the remainder of my property to erect a substantial building, at a cost not to exceed Eight Thousand Dollars" for the Reading Rooms, with the income of whatever remains after erecting such a building... to be expended" for its maintenance and operation.
On October 8, just three weeks after signing the will, Dr. Goss died of Bright's Disease at the age of 47, with his dreams of a new residence still unfulfilled. The settling of the Goss estate required some time and the construction of the Goss Reading Room took even longer than expected. In November of 1904, the local newspapers announced that the trustees hoped to have the plans for the new building ready by spring and to begin construction at that time.
For the plans, the trustees turned to the Boston firm of Adden and Parker. Willard P. Adden was already known in Laconia for his design of the Congregational Church at Veterans Square, on which construction began in April 1905. In late August, the trustees traveled to Boston to review the plans and specifications. In late September, the final plans were expected from the architect. In early October, the contract for the building had been awarded to Orvis T. Muzzey and that work had begun on the foundation. In early January, the slaters were said to be about to begin work on the roof. But, no further reports appeared in the newspapers until July when it was noted that the interior of the reading room was completed. It is uncertain when the building was actually completed, or what was the final cost of the building.
Finally, on April 8, 1907, the Goss Reading Room was opened to the public without ceremony. Although the newspapers of the time clearly note an intention to operate a branch of the Laconia Public Library in the new building, it was not until February 18, 1909, that the Goss trustees actually petitioned for the establishment of the branch library. On March 1, the trustees of the city library agreed. A week later on March 8, the branch library was in operation in the Lakeport building. Since then, the Goss Reading Room has been run by the Laconia Public Library, with financial assistance from the Goss trustees, who still own the property and administer the Goss trust funds.