Hello Travelers, When Charlene Hartley started describing Groton Massachusetts to me, I immediately wanted to add it to my bucket list places to visit. I have never been that far north yet and it is such a beautiful small town. I asked her to share it with all of us. This is a great read and she put a lot of thought and effort into her guide to Groton Massachusetts! Much Love as always, Chrissy
Groton Massachusetts: A perfect place to explore
In the northern part of Massachusetts, less than an hour northwest of Boston, near the New Hampshire border, is the sleepy small town of Groton. What started as an agricultural settlement has grown into a small town which still holds onto its agricultural history, while embracing culture, nature, and small businesses.
Groton, Massachusetts has a long history. It was settled and incorporated in 1655. The layout of the streets is like many New England towns, a Main Street with little roads that spread out like spiderwebs in all directions. My mother likes to refer to these as cow paths, as they probably started that way! Main Street in Groton doubles as Route 225 and 119, both of which peel off and go their own way on either end of town. Route 40 and 111 intersect at points as well. Main Street has what you might expect from a small town: the Town Hall, the Groton Library, several churches, and small local art galleries. Main Street also provides an array of eateries, such as Filho’s Cucina and the Groton House of Pizza.
Filho’s Cucina is a small Italian deli and eatery located down the road where Route 111 splits off. It has a small outdoor eating space and is conveniently next door to The Groton Market, which carries wines and all varieties of specialty beers. I was excited to see that they carry some of my favorite local beers from Ohio! The food at Filho’s is delicious! I especially liked their Gemelli con Pollo. I highly recommend having a meal here while you are in town.
The Groton House of Pizza is located in a small shopping strip just across the street from the Historic Groton Inn. Current owner Theofani (Fani, for short) has been here since 1980. He loves Groton and loves all the kids that come in.
The private Lawrence Academy is just down the road, but many town kids also come through to hang out, play video games, and eat pizza! My aunt remembers being a teenager in Groton and playing silly pranks on the private school kids, such as loading up the jukebox with a never-ending loop of Yoko Ono and then taking off, leaving the other kids there with the tunes. Sadly, the jukebox is no longer there. Fani says it’s partly due to everyone having music on their phones now. He still loves seeing the kids and misses them in the summers. Although there is plenty of business from local families year round. The local playground is close to his shop, so I imagine it’s easy to grab a pizza on your way home from a day of playing!
Slightly off Main Street on Route 40 at the foot of Gibbet Hill is the Gibbet Hill Grill.
For etymologists, you may recognize Gibbet Hill as the location of the hangman’s noose, however, there is no record of any hangings taking place here!
As you enter the property, you will pass a white farmhouse that dates back to 1690. The Grill itself opened in 2004 in a remodeled barn that is over 100 years old. Soon after the Grill opened, The Barn at Gibbet Hill, an event hall, was opened next door. The Grill believes strongly in locally-sourced food so in 2009 they added a farm manager to oversee two acres of fresh produce for use in their dishes. Now they have lambs and pigs as well, but they typically source out to a New York farm for their beef. I just love that they are so committed to keeping their food as locally sourced as possible. It really does make a difference in the final product!
My daughter loves their lamb burger, which has a whipped feta and tzatziki topping with pickled peppers and arugula. Amazing!
My mom is a huge fan of this restaurant and loves sitting at the bar to try local craft brews. Currently, due to the pandemic and slow reopening procedures, the Barn has been converted into a pop-up restaurant in order to stay socially distant and keep guests outdoors on the beautiful patio. Typically, this space would be for a cocktail reception after a wedding ceremony down in the lawn and before the formal reception inside.
Maybe you’re in the mood for that small town diner feel. Head east down Main Street past the post office to find Johnson’s Restaurant & Dairy Bar. This little diner has been in Groton since the 1940s. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but most of all, ice cream! All of their ice creams are home-made and absolutely delicious! Try some of their unique flavors, such as Suzanna Banana or Scooby Snax!
Other food options include the Salt & Light Cafe, which is only open for breakfast and lunch, the Groton Station House, located behind the Town Hall near the rail-to-trail path and a Mexican restaurant located closer to the highway, which is also where you will find a chain grocery store. This brings up a unique feature of Groton Massachusetts – the town does not permit large signs or drive-through restaurants. The only chain in town is Dunkin, which is tucked into the same strip as The Groton House of Pizza. This helps to keep that old-fashioned New England charm.
The Groton Inn and The Forge & Vine
The Groton Inn (est. 1678) and the accompanying restaurant, Forge & Vine, are located right at the intersection of Main Street and Route 40. Lodging in Groton is limited to this beautiful Inn and a few local bed & breakfasts. After suffering from an electrical fire in 2011, the Inn is rebuilt, remodeled, and ready to take care of you during your stay.
Manager Tricia Tomkins was especially excited to take me on a tour since they had just reopened their restaurant to guests after the pandemic. As of this writing, they are unable to host hotel guests yet.
When you enter the lobby, you are greeted by a beautiful sitting area with a fireplace and artwork on loan from the NOA Gallery across the street. All pieces on display throughout the hotel were created by local artists. NOA takes care of rotating the pieces, and they are for sale if you see one that you love. Twice a year, the Inn hosts an artist’s reception where you can meet the artists. The grandfather clock is on loan from Delaney Antique Clocks in nearby Townsend. When the Inn was rebuilt after the fire, they kept it as true to the original structure as possible, both in the look of the exterior as well as the interior layout. They have the same colonial color palette, all Benjamin Moore paints, as the original Inn, and the painted exposed beam ceiling is a striking feature. The lobby also contains two murals which came from a house that was originally located on Indian Hill. These were donated to the Inn for display.
The Conservatory, on the left side of the lobby, is a warm grey-toned room where you can enjoy a fresh breakfast buffet and get made-to-order omelettes. This room also serves as a space to host showers and graduation parties. Another larger option for gatherings is The Prescott Room, located down the hall, looking out onto Gibbet Hill. It is used for meetings, weddings, and other gatherings that need state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment. It also has a built-in service bar. Downstairs there is a pool, a gym, and another meeting room.
There are 60 guest rooms and each one is different, either by layout or color palette. There are different categories of room as well – see their website for details! The company is environmentally conscious so a lot of the things you will see in your room reflect that. In your room you will find a Keurig on the dresser, a water filling station by the bed, and Be Kind products in the bathrooms.
The Inn gets a lot of business from weddings as well as the boarding schools. The bridal suite is located on the third floor and has features such as a hook to hang the gown, a large bathroom with double sinks, and a Juliette balcony. It also had an amazing view of Gibbet Hill. As the only Inn in town, this is the premier place to stay! Other than a few small B&Bs, the only other hotel option is about 6 miles outside of town.
Forge & Vine is a freestanding building located behind the Inn and is a more upscale choice of dining. As a company, the vision is “It’s the heartfelt hospitality,” and you can feel that in both the hotel and the restaurant. There is a more upbeat vibe here, music is always playing, and it’s a fun atmosphere. The building is beautiful with an intricate set of door handles at the entrance and open steel beams across the ceiling and wood re-purposed from an old barn inside. Whether you are indoors or out on the deck, there is a clear view of Gibbet Hill!
The food is outstanding! I love their Little Leaf Farm Green Salad with strawberries, feta, sliced almonds and a white vinaigrette. For dessert you have to try their Blueberry and Peach crumble! The warm mixture of fruit and oat streusel mix perfectly with the cold buttermilk ice cream. For burgers, don’t be scared off by the Blood Farm Cheeseburger. The Blood family is a prominent old Groton bloodline. The burger is delicious with spicy aioli and Vermont cheddar. They also carry fabulous entrees which include salmon, swordfish, rotisserie chicken, and ribeye steaks.
The Lawrence Academy (est. 1793) and The Groton School (est. 1884), both private boarding schools, are located within the town limits, only a mile and a half away from each other. The presence of these schools has helped shape the town, providing additional arts and athletic experiences during the school year for townspeople to attend. Each year Laurence Academy hosts Arts Nashoba, which is a youth arts program that operates during the school year, performing two shows per year (fall and spring). Although Lawrence Academy is right on Main Street, it is set back from the road, offering a beautiful campus view as you drive by. It is proud to be one of the oldest independent schools in the country. Behind the school as well as across the street, are the athletic fields. The Lawrence Academy Spartans offer 23 athletic options, including mountain biking, squash, lacrosse and crew in addition to more traditional sports.
Down the road is The Groton School, which has a strikingly English-looking campus off Route 111. This makes sense when you learn that Mr. Prescott, the school’s founder, took his education in England. The school is quite prestigious and has ties to a diverse group of people, including Martin Luther King, Jr, Booker T. Washington, and Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The campus also received recognition from Architectural Digest for being the most beautiful independent school campus in Massachusetts. I had the pleasure of speaking to Joe, one of the maintenance men, during the school’s closure. He started working on the campus five years ago as a part-time zamboni driver, caring for the two NHL-sized ice rinks on campus. He told me that the school covers over 300 acres of workable land, which doesn’t include the forests surrounding much of the campus. The grounds go right up to the Nashua River on the western edge, but also includes much of the property on the surrounding streets. All faculty live on the campus with the students. Due to the global pandemic, many construction projects are taking place since the campus is void of students. They will hopefully return in the fall to some beautiful additions!
With all the rivers and ponds around Groton Mass., you may want to get out on the water. Nashoba Paddler is located east of Main Street on Route 225. They have canoes, kayaks and paddleboards available for rent for a half day or full day. When we aren’t in the middle of a pandemic, they also offer off-site rentals, instructors, and guided trips down the river. You can even schedule a group tour or a birthday party!
Lost Lake, on the east side of Groton, is a great place to swim, fish, or kayak. With an area of over 200 acres, there’s plenty of room for everyone. There is a boat launch on the northeast shore in case you brought yours.
The Nashua River Rail Trail is a walking/biking trail on an old rail line that runs from just north of the New Hampshire state line, through Groton Massachusetts, and on to the city of Ayer. There are parking spots all along the trail for easy access. On one section where I walked, the trail went through an underpass at Peabody Street and a beautiful mural was painted on the walls. There is also a scenic rest area just south of that at the Groton School Pond. Want to hear more about this trail and others near it? Read this post.
Are you more of an animal person? Well, I’ve got you covered. Over on Common Street you will find the Luina Greine Farm, complete with alpacas, sheep and even a donkey or two.
You can go in and visit with the animals and then do a little shopping for natural alpaca and wool products. I love the arm warmers I bought last winter!
Remember the Gibbet Hill Grill? Well, there’s a trail up to the top of the hill that you can get to from the parking lot of the Grill. At the top, not only will you get a lovely view of Groton, but you will find the ruins of Bancroft Castle. This structure has an interesting history. Construction was started in 1906 by General William Bancroft with the goal of building a retirement home. Sadly, he never completed it and the property was purchased by a physician who made it a private sanitarium in 1918. In the late 20s and early 30s, the Groton Hunt Club used the building to host fox hunting parties and other events. (On a side note to this, I was assured by older citizens who remember stories of these fox hunts that they only chased the foxes and never killed them as there were only a few foxes in Groton. However, the gentlemen did dress immaculately for these events, in pink coats and tall silk hats!) In 1932, the building burned, leaving the ruins that are on the hill today. They are quite covered until you get right up to them by tall trees that have grown up in the years since.
Amy Severino of the Gibbet Hill Grill shared with me that in 2000 a construction company came forward with plans to build 78 homes on the hill. When a Groton native stepped up and purchased the 338-acre property and an additional 188-acres of orchard, he received a standing ovation at the Town Meeting. I can’t imagine this hill being covered with homes! Amy also told me that about one-third of Groton’s land is conservation land, so there is no end of trails through the fields and forests of town.
Artist Paul Matisse lives in Groton Massachusetts! He purchased the old Baptist church on Main Street when the congregation built a newer building down the road and has turned it into a home and art gallery, The Kalliroscope Gallery. The steeple bell continues to ring every hour under his care. Mr. Matisse installed a unique art exhibit in the woods at the south edge of town. After a short hike from the road you come upon a Hemlock grove with bells hanging from them. Pull the bell ropes and create a haunting melody in the midst of the quiet woods. This is an example of his sound sculptures, which are installed throughout the world since he turned primarily to this art form in the 1980s.
The NOA Gallery is located on Main Street across form the Groton Inn. They also have galleries inside the Inn and at the Indian Hill Music School in Littleton.
The Groton Center for the Arts changed it’s name to Arts Nashoba a few years ago and is located on Main Street across the street from the Lawrence Academy. Here, students ages 4-16 can take classes in various art forms: visual art, music, dance, theatre, and even Lego sculpture. The Center partners with The Groton School for some of their classes due to space needed.
Can’t go to Groton soon, but love the arts? Coming in 2022 is a brand new concert venue, The Music Center at Indian Hill is currently under construction off Old Ayer Road on 110 acres of land. Renderings for the new construction show both indoor and outdoor performance spaces, as well as recital halls. The Indian Hill Music currently has their school in Littleton, just south of Groton.
As I mentioned at the beginning, Groton Massachusetts is a sleepy town. Other than the restaurants, most businesses are closed by 6:00 p.m. But during the day, Groton is a great place to explore, no matter what your passion. Residents I spoke to talk about the synergy with community and the arts, as well as history with the Historical Society playing an active role. Town Hall meetings take place regularly with all residents encouraged to attend. They work very hard to keep the old charm of Groton Mass alive. In this article, I have only scratched the surface, staying primarily on Main Street, but venture off on those spiderweb streets and there’s even more to explore!
Charlene Hartley was born just outside of Groton, spending much of her early childhood at her grandparent’s home there. She still returns several times a year to check in on them. Currently she lives in Ohio with her husband and daughters, where she is a teacher, travel blogger & content creator. You can find out more about her and her travels on her website, destinationswithhart.com. You can also follow her on Instagram @destinationswithhart and on Twitter @charliebhartley.