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Alton, New Hampshire
Monument Square in the center of Alton
Monument Square in the center of Alton
Official seal of Alton, New Hampshire
Location in Belknap County, New Hampshire
Country United States
State New Hampshire
County Belknap
Incorporated 1796
Villages Alton
Alton Bay
 • Total 83.2 sq mi (215.4 km2)
 • Land 63.7 sq mi (165.0 km2)
 • Water 19.5 sq mi (50.5 km2)  23.42%
560 ft (171 m)
 • Total 5,894
 • Density 92/sq mi (35.7/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP codes
03809 (Alton)
03810 (Alton Bay)
Area code(s) 603
FIPS code 33-01060
GNIS feature ID 0873530

Alton is a town in Belknap County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 5,894 at the 2020 census, up from 5,250 at the 2010 census. It is home to Alton Bay State Forest and Mount Major State Forest.

The primary settlement in town, where 499 people resided at the 2020 census, is defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as the Alton census-designated place (CDP) and is centered on the intersection of New Hampshire Route 11 and New Hampshire Route 140. The town also includes the village of Alton Bay, a long-time resort located beside Lake Winnipesaukee.


Originally called New Durham Gore because of rocky upland areas, or "gores," the town was settled in 1770, mainly by farmers because the highland areas provided less frost. Merchants then filled the lowlands. Early Alton history recounts stories of the merchants trying to convince the farmers to incorporate. They would succeed on 15 January 1796, when the community was named after Alton, a small market town in Hampshire, England.

Alton was part of Strafford County until Belknap County was erected on 22 December 1840. By 1840, the village of Alton existed at the town's center. In 1847, the Cochecho Railroad began bringing passengers and freight to Alton Village and Alton Bay. By 1859, the town had two gristmills, seven sawmills, and five shoe factories. But the most famous business was the Rockwell Clough Company, established by William Rockwell Clough, inventor of the corkscrew. By 1903, his company was producing 30 million corkscrews worldwide.

Since the mid-19th century, however, tourism has been the principal business. In 1863, the Adventist Campground held their first camp meeting at Alton Bay, which was the terminus of the Dover and Winnipiseogee Railroad. In 1872, the Boston & Maine Railroad launched at Alton Bay the steamer Mount Washington, the first side-wheeler and largest vessel on Lake Winnipesaukee. When destroyed by fire in 1939, a replacement ship was found, also christened Mount Washington. Today, it continues to carry summer tourists between stops on the lake. The railway survived until 1935, and the old station at Alton Bay is now a community center.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 82.2 square miles (212.9 km2), of which 62.9 square miles (162.9 km2) is land and 19.3 square miles (50.0 km2) is water, comprising 23.49% of the town. Alton is located at the southern end of Lake Winnipesaukee, around the 4-mile-long (6.4 km) inlet known as Alton Bay. The village of Alton Bay is located at the southern tip of the bay, while the main village of Alton is located 1 mile (1.6 km) farther south. The town is drained by the Merrymeeting River, the main inlet to Alton Bay. Mount Major, in Mount Major State Forest, has an elevation of 1,780 feet (540 m) above sea level. Popular with hikers, the summit offers unsurpassed views of Lake Winnipesaukee. The highest point in Alton is the north peak of Straightback Mountain, at 1,910 ft (580 m), just west of Mount Major. Both mountains are part of the Belknap Mountains range. Alton lies almost fully within the Merrimack River watershed, though a tiny corner is in the Piscataqua River (coastal) watershed.

The town is served by five state highways. New Hampshire Route 11 passes through the center of town, leading northwest along the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee to Gilford and thence to Laconia, and southeast to Rochester. New Hampshire Route 28 also passes through the center of town, leading north to Wolfeboro and south to Pittsfield and Manchester. New Hampshire Route 140 leads from Alton west to Gilmanton and Tilton. New Hampshire Route 11A leaves NH 11 in West Alton and goes west into Gilford, and New Hampshire Route 28A forms an alternate route north from Alton Bay to NH 28.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 445
1800 721 62.0%
1810 1,279 77.4%
1820 2,058 60.9%
1830 1,993 −3.2%
1840 2,002 0.5%
1850 1,795 −10.3%
1860 2,018 12.4%
1870 1,768 −12.4%
1880 1,476 −16.5%
1890 1,372 −7.0%
1900 1,500 9.3%
1910 1,348 −10.1%
1920 1,221 −9.4%
1930 1,261 3.3%
1940 1,209 −4.1%
1950 1,189 −1.7%
1960 1,241 4.4%
1970 1,647 32.7%
1980 2,440 48.1%
1990 3,286 34.7%
2000 4,502 37.0%
2010 5,250 16.6%
2020 5,894 12.3%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2010, there were 5,250 people, 2,145 households, and 1,511 families residing in the town. There were 4,281 housing units, of which 2,136, or 49.9%, were vacant. 1,928 of the vacant units were for seasonal use. The racial makeup of the town was 98.4% white, 0.1% African American, 0.1% Native American, 0.3% Asian, 0.04% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 0.2% some other race, and 0.9% from two or more races. 1.1% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Of the 2,145 households, 28.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.0% were headed by married couples living together, 6.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.6% were non-families. 22.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.5% were someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45, and the average family size was 2.87.

In the town, 21.1% of the population were under the age of 18, 6.2% were from 18 to 24, 20.9% from 25 to 44, 34.9% from 45 to 64, and 16.9% were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46.2 years. For every 100 females, there were 100.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.3 males.

For the period 2011–2015, the estimated median annual income for a household was $66,823, and the median income for a family was $85,556. Male full-time workers had a median income of $46,223 versus $42,448 for females. The per capita income for the town was $29,693. 6.9% of the population and 4.6% of families were below the poverty line. 1.6% of the population under the age of 18 and 9.2% of those 65 or older were living in poverty.

Sites of interest

  • Alton Historical Society & Museum
  • Harold S. Gilman Museum
  • Alton Bay, with an arcade, mini-golf, ice cream shop, multiple areas to eat, a marina, and other attractions

Historic photos

Notable people

  • Joel Bean (1825–1914), founder of Beanite Quakerism
  • George Franklin Drew (1827–1900), 12th governor of Florida
  • James B. French (1857–1932), member of the Wisconsin State Assembly
  • Steve Leach (born 1966), right wing with seven NHL teams
  • Don Sweeney (born 1966), defenseman with the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Alton (Nuevo Hampshire) para niños

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