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.
MORE GREATER BOSTON
Tonya commented on 10.20.11
www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCepU5G7hSg link to video of The Groton Inn: What Remains Spread the word. America's oldest Inn and Historic Landmark: After the devastating fire of August 2 and claims of it being a total loss, this imagery taken on Oct. 16, 2011 may reveal that more of it survives than has been purported. Ironically, it is the very oldest part of the Groton Inn, dating back to 1678, that has survived mostly intact. Length: ?7:02
Tonya commented on 10.20.11
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCepU5G7hSg link to video of The Groton Inn: What Remains Spread the word. America's oldest Inn and Historic Landmark: After the devastating fire of August 2 and claims of it being a total loss, this imagery taken on Oct. 16, 2011 may reveal that more of it survives than has been purported. Ironically, it is the very oldest part of the Groton Inn, dating back to 1678, that has survived mostly intact. Length: ?7:02
Smiley commented on 10.05.11
As someone who lived behind the Inn, I can tell you that George was never a nice guy. He had numerous code violations and often disconnected the furnace on us in the middle of winter, because he didn't want to pay for oil to be put in the tank. I filed with the BOH back in 1995, after numerous attempts to get him to fix things and bring the apartment up to code. His answer was to evict us instead. Rather than stay and fight his illegal eviction, we decided it was best to move elsewhere. As much as I love the history of the Inn, its current owner is a vile old man.
Tonya commented on 09.29.11
Thank you to WGBH for running this program! It has sparked (no pun intended) some interesting discussions about what’s happened with the Inn over the past thirty or so years; the general consensus in Town is that the Inn was lacking in many areas of quality goods and services, as evidenced by low customer turn out and even Mr. Pergantis’ own observations of this. The lack of customers had nothing to do with a type of “class warfare;” it is basic supply and demand issues and sadly the management just couldn’t identify and then provide what people wanted and has now taken the position that it is a matter of “support” when it’s really a matter of “business.” I understand that Mr. Pergantis feels he’s too old to rebuild, but I trust that there’s someone out there who is destined to save the Inn, however it will take a little time to find the Inn’s hero - we simply ask that the Inn and/or it’s viable parts stay in tact for a bit longer to allow for a solution to rise from the ashes. I hope that this show will make its way to someone who is inspired to save the Inn so that it can one day return to what we all hope for it to be again: a flourishing, bustling resource in our community.
Mary Lou commented on 09.28.11
Thank you Jim. You're absolutely right. There is no defending him now. Our hope through our Facebook Group "Save What's Left of the Groton Inn" is to raise enough awareness and get someone to care enough to buy him out so he can retire. I can't imagine he's strong enough to run the building and operation of a new restaurant anyway. He should have sold it and as I understand it got right to the closing which he failed to show up for ... maybe the fire never would have happened if someone who had cared enough to put in sprinklers and bring the building up to code, had had it. The Inn is a beautiful old girl and I'd like to think that she would love to be salvaged and returned to a viable Inn once more.
Jim commented on 09.28.11
Lisa, Your comments are way off. Since Mr Pergantis has made it clear that the historical significance of this storied landmark means nothing to him, there is nothing wrong with people who care about the Inn trying to do all they can to save whats left. His bitterness towards the town is his own making. If he had put a decent product out there people would have come. If he had no support for 35 years, what makes him think people will come to a new restaraunt after he stubbornly flips his middle finger at people who are trying to help him and the town? His choice is to alienate himself...he makes no sense. He should have sold the property when he had his fair offer months ago.
Tammy commented on 09.28.11
Please someone come forward and offer Mr. Pergantis enough money for him to retire and sell the INN. To a great many of us it is a part of our history and growing up in Groton. Most of us wish we could live in the Town we call ours but the property values are way to high and we just can't afford it but the INN remains the heart of Main Street and needs to be rebuilt. I for one can not fathom driving down Main Street and not having the INN there. Please help