Sept. 28, 2011
GROTON, Mass. — Home to the Groton School and Lawrence Academy, the town of Groton also boasted an Inn where Presidents and historic figures stayed on their way to Boston. But that Inn may soon be demolished.
Late on the evening of Aug. 2, 2011, a neighbor alerted George Pergantis that his inn was on fire. Pergantis described watching the firefighters at work. "The fire department came in with a big truck and as soon as he hit the window all the flames came out, poof, 50 feet in the air," Pergantis said.
Fifteen trucks, and the efforts of countless firefighters couldn't save the building.
"It's all over for me," Pergantis tearfully recalled. "I don't want to talk much because I feel bad…"
Pegantis feels bad because after 30 years of love and labor keeping The Old Groton Inn running, he says at age 81 he's too old to rebuild now. So despite objections from area residents, he plans to tear down what's left of the building.
"The town people, I'll be honest with you. All these years, they never supported me. Very few people here and there. Now, they come here, they want to support me. It's too late," Pergantis said.
Laurie Gibson hopes it's not too late. She grew up here and her parents once owned the inn. It was their meticulous research and efforts that put the Groton Inn on the National Register of Historic Places.
"The oldest part of the Inn dates back to 1678. Which is 98 years before we even became a country," explained Gibson. "Paul Revere inducted the Masons here. Ulysses Grant was also in the registers. Teddy Roosevelt and William H. Taft. One of them had stayed here the night before he was elected," Gibson said.
Established originally in 1678 as a homestead for the local parish, The Groton Inn eventually became a popular resting spot for travelers. Gibson and some town residents aren't ready to put 300 years of history to rest and are pinning their hopes on an engineers' report that claims parts of the Inn can be salvaged.
"From what we understand, at least 30 percent of the building is viable," Gibson said. "It wasn't touched by the fire. It's amazing to me — the oldest part of the building survived the most."
But Pergantis sees no point. "Keep the front for what? Nothing is left. The foundation is no good. What are you going to keep?" Pergantis said.
Pergantis already has permits to tear the building down, he's just waiting for his insurance claim to pay for the demolition. Gibson expressed the hope of supporters who are using this borrowed time to make a plea to save the inn.
"We are hoping somebody would come forward and hopefully want to purchase the property. And want to purchase what's left of the building. And restore it as much as possible," Gibson said
But even a benevolent stranger might not be able to restore the inn if Pergantis refuses to sell it. The Old Groton Inn – a resting place for 3 centuries of travelers, may have come to its final rest.
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