Historic Groton Inn Rises from the Ashes
By Scott Shurtleff
GROTON -- What was once the oldest inn in the country is now the newest sensation.
With the soft opening of the Groton Inn, and its adjacent restaurant, Forge & Vine, the resurrection is complete after a fire leveled the 350-year-old building in 2011.
The new complex occupies the same eight-acre footprint at 128 Main St. as its predecessor, featuring bucolic country vistas out the back door and traditional Americana along its frontage.
The 156-seat Forge & Vine was filled to capacity on Nov. 8 with hotel guests and residents, who toured the 5,000-square-foot restaurant.
General Manager Waddy Francis said Migis Hotel Group, a Maine-based, four-person consortium of hospitality property holdings, bought the property after the fire with a vision of its future.
Francis said that the new buildings would keep the nostalgia from the old inn -- inside and out -- but incorporate modern construction principles and products. The detached Forge & Vine was not part of the original complex but its addition augments the theme and is consistent with the inn’s throwback decor.
Phil Kronenthal, director of operations and co-owner of Migis, describes the dining experience like this: “We want people to see it, smell it, touch it and hear it before they sit down to taste it.”
Patrons can get cocktail service even in the busy waiting area.
The company has hired 150 employees. It’s local impact goes further.
“We buy only local seafood,” said Francis. “We have a local bakery that delivers fresh breads and pastries every day. Our bars feature craft beers from local breweries. We get our beef from Blood Farm and our vegetables are grown locally.”
“Every element in our menu was deliberated on,” said Francis. “That is one reason that we had to delay the opening beyond our goal date.”
But the biggest reason that Forge & Vine fell behind schedule was a series of hurricanes in 2017.
“The steel that we needed couldn’t be shipped into the ports along the gulf. But we didn’t care, those disasters rightfully overshadowed our construction plans. The culture of this company (Migis) is more about people and less about business. If you treat people right, business will take care of itself,” Francis said.
The inn again put people first when, after the series of gas line explosions in the Merrimack Valley last month, it provided free rooms and breakfast to displaced victims.
“We gave more than 300 free rooms and when the gas company reimbursed us in part for the costs, we dedicated that check to the (Merrimack Valley Food Bank). It’s what you do in times of crisis, and that was a crisis. You help each other out,” Francis said.
The halls and suites of the inn are adorned in part with works from local artists, along with photos and sketches of from the inn’s heyday.
The 60-room inn re-opened for business on April 30 and a formal ribbon-cutting for the Forge & Vine is scheduled for later this month.
The inn, which smells of hardwood, has a function room that has hosted dozens of corporate events and wedding rehearsal dinners.
The three floors overlook Gibbet Hill Farm, scenic with cows and foliage. Third-floor rooms feature slanted ceilings and windows cut out of dormers.
The lobby is ambient of wood burning in the fireplace and wood beneath the feet, facing a chair-lined and manicured courtyard where in warmer days music enlivens the al fresco.