But men remembered little of all that...
April 1st, 2950, The Third Age
...many things have changed in the northern regions of Wilderland since you returned home. Seven years might seem to pass as quick as a heartbeat to the long-lived Elves, but innumerable deeds can be accomplished by industrious Men and Dwarves. I trust my cousin Balin to tell you about all the important matters, and I am sure Gandalf will complete the account with tidings of his own. But I didn’t forget how much you love maps, so I resolved to send you one depicting the marvellous city on the Long Lake as it appears today. It was drawn by my brother Óin and I have added some useful notes.
As you will certainly remember, soon after the fall of Smaug and the subsequent destruction of their city, the Lake-men set upon the task of building a new town for themselves. Under the direction of the old Master, they chose a suitable spot higher up the shores of the Long Lake, to the north, to stay well away from the place where the Dragon fell. They worked long and laboriously, sparing no effort to build a city they designed to be more fair and large even than before. To achieve this aim, they received great help from Bard the Dragonslayer, who presented the Lake-people with much gold from the hoard of Smaug, and from the Elvenking, who sent many skilled Elves to aid in the reconstruction.
The new Lake-town rises from the waters of the Long Lake, as the Lake-towns that preceded it. Many wains and carts cross its slender bridge every day, and the surface of the lake itself teems with barges and boats in every month of the year, whether heading for the market-place of Esgaroth, or on their way to the South, North or West. Trade has indeed resumed and it is more prosperous than ever, with much wealth going up and down the river. Many folks from nearby lands have come to live here, and a forest of trees has been felled to build the stilts needed to support its wooden houses, streets and quays. The city now encompasses a larger area than the one that was once enclosed within the town that Smaug destroyed, and it has been divided into seven main districts - erroneously called ‘quarters’ by the Lake-people, still used to their smaller home.
You might wonder how it is that I know so much about Esgaroth. This is easily explained: the Kingdom under the Mountain has many interests in this town, and in the coming and going of goods, and I have been personally assigned by King Dáin to oversee our dealings here. This task makes for a very dull occupation, especially for someone who is used to adventuring, or at least to handle hammers and forge-bellows in place of silver pens!
Fortunately, I have taken up residence in a house that I daresay you would find to your liking: it is large and comfortable, and when the weather is clear I enjoy a good view of the Lonely Mountain, beyond the low hills at the far end of the lake. It is found in the best quarter of the city, a spot where the stench of the Long Marshes rarely arrives, as it is turned away by a fresh northerly breeze before it can reach the noses of those who are so fortunate to live here.
It is not by chance that the town-hall is found in this district too, a larger and more magnificent great house than the one you visited, and ruled by a far more pleasant Master of Esgaroth (the old Master having gone to a bitter end, as Balin will certainly tell you...). You might remember him as the former captain of the guard, the first Man of the Lake we met when we first set foot on the bridge to the old Lake-town. He has made quite a splendid career, this one, and I am required to visit him on a regular basis on official errands. We have become quite fond of each other’s company, and it is partly on his behalf that I am asking you if it would be possible to purchase from you a barrel of pipe-weed from the Southfarthing (Longbottom leaf, if at all possible, a particular favourite discovered when I used to pass through the Shire in our wandering days...). Talk of tolls, portage and customs duties is a taxing endeavour, and we have almost drained my supply...
Excerpt from a letter from Glóin, son of Gróin, accompanying a map of Lake-town carried by Balin, son of Fundin, when he went to visit Bilbo Baggins in the Shire, in the autumn of year 2949.