Goodbye To The Old Groton Inn

By Azita Ghahramani   |   Wednesday, September 28, 2011
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Sept. 28, 2011

Watch the video segment that aired on September 27 on WGBH's Greater Boston.

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.

Oct. 13: Prague and Art Nouveau

By Brian McCreath   |   Wednesday, October 13, 2010
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On today's program, we'll sample a new recording by the young, remarkable British vocal ensemble Stile Antico, who visit Boston this Friday for a concert presented by Boston Early Music Festival.

And I also have for you another in our series of concert performances from the Czech Philharmonic, recorded at the Rudolfinum in Prague (today featuring Josef Bohuslav Foerster's Violin Concerto No. 1 with soloist Ivan Zenaty).  I was there last spring with a WGBH Learning Tour (a terrific way to travel, especially if you love classical music;  and if you do, you might consider travelling next spring to Spain!).  And when our tour guide announced to us that, the night before visiting the Rudolfinum, we'd be hearing the Prague Symphony Orchestra at Prague Municipal Hall, the response from our group was ... underwhelming.  There we were in a former Communist state, going to a concert hall with the astoundingly pedestrian name of Municipal Hall.  We were in for a shock.  This has to be one of the most beautiful concert halls I've ever been in, and below are some pictures of it.  And further down, you'll find a work by one of the great Art Nouveau artists, Alphonse Mucha, who had a lot to do with the design and decor of Municipal Hall, and for whom there is a wonderful museum in Prague.  Enjoy, and be sure to follow the links to learn more!  And if you have memories of Prague to share, feel free to leave a comment.

Exterior of Prague Municipal House, courtesy of

Prague Municipal House interior, courtesy of Czech Tourism

Alphonse Mucha's Autumn, courtey Olga's Gallery

Building The Great Cathedrals

Wednesday, September 15, 2010
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PBS Features Islamic Art

Monday, July 2, 2012
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Inside Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's New Wing

By Jared Bowen   |   Friday, January 20, 2012
1 Comments   1 comments.

Jan. 20, 2012

BOSTON—The Boston area’s museum renaissance has reached even greater heights with the opening of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s new wing. Designed by celebrated architect Renzo Piano, the gleaming, modern glass structure manages to get closer to Gardner’s own vision.
A triumph of will and passion, The Gardner museum is an Italian oasis in the Fenway brimming with some of the most enviable pieces of art in the world. It’s affectionately called “the Palace,” which for architect Renzo Piano, made designing its new wing, downright daunting, according to director Anne Hawley.
“The first day he came to work with us, which was in December of 2004, looking at the building and he said after spending some time in the courtyard, ‘This woman was mad, this is extraordinary. I have to quit the job, no one can do this.’ By which he meant what Gardner did was so tangibly evocative and pulled out of you such emotions that you really can’t touch it,” Hawley said.
And he hasn’t, really. The Gardner’s new wing is set 50-feet back from “the Palace.” It is larger in square footage, but smaller in height. In more affectionate terms, it is the great great-grand nephew to the original museum, the grand dame aunt.
As Piano describes it, “The new building always refer to the Palace. Doesn’t matter what you do in the new building. When you enter, you see the Palace there. When you sit in the living room you see the Palace. When you walk up and down or you have a meal or you walk in the stair, you always see the Palace. The Palace is the constant reference. I can say it’s the object of desire. Of ultimate desire,” he said.
A 180 million dollar project, this copper-clad offspring is now the repository of the real world. It’s here where you enter, its glass façade ensuring a smooth and transparent transition off the Fenway. It’s where you do your real-world business of buying tickets, shopping in the gift shop and dining in the new café. But it calms you. It’s designed to be cozy, like a book-lined living room, right down to the Italian canaries in the new orientation space.
“Gardner in her time shared her collections and hospitality to visitors and her friends and today’s trustees and staff were the extensions of that. And so that idea of sharing and welcoming was what we wanted to carry into that space,” said Hawley
Thenyou leave it and shed the real world by passing through a glass corridor into the Palace. Piano calls it the umbilical cord. It’s lined with trees and he wants visitors to feel as though they’re passing through a forest andthrough time.
‘The link is a kind of a place from change. You change speed. You enter a piece of history, and the museum made that miracle. You enter in the different world. It is out of time. It is timeless,” he said.
This new entrance to the Palace restores the central axis Gardner herself designed so that visitors are gently guided directly to the museum’s wow moment—its soaring and newly restored courtyard.
“You can’t be occupied with mundane thoughts anymore. You have to surrender to the beauty of it,” said Hawley.
Also restored in the Palace is The Tapestry Room which for the first time in nearly a hundred years is at it was. It no longer doubles as an unfortunately cluttered music hall, because back in the new wing, Piano has created a very singular one, a perfect cube.
“Its small and the stage is the floor, the ground floor is the stage, then it’s surrounded by two rows of audience on all four sides. Then there are three balconies going up, each with 60 seats, only front-seats. So everyone has a front-row seat. And the sound is incredible,” said Hawley.
In many ways, Hawley also sees the new wing as a workshop. It’s where music is made, where the museum’s artists-in-residence live and work and where the greenhouses that serve the courtyard are housed. It’s a reflection of Gardner’s own mission for the Palace.
“It was always meant to be used by artists, scholars, performers, to build on to make their work and to present it to the public, which Gardner did all the time.  She was a real patron of the artistic and the creative process,” she said.
Which is manifested in the new special exhibition gallery. Four times the size of the old, cramped one, it now features an installation by Glasgow artist Victoria Morton, a former artist-in-residence.

“Gardner so championed that,” Hawley said. “One of her favorite phrases was ‘fire the imagination.’ I  think the public is going to hopefully get into this relationship with the work of young artists who are responding to our time and influenced by the collection in doing so.”

A triumph of concept and execution, the new wing flatters and compliments “the Palace” in a most brilliant fashion.

Jared Bowen's Arts Ahead: Isabella and Donuts

By Jared Bowen   |   Thursday, January 19, 2012
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Jan. 19, 2012


The new wing of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is now open to the public. (Courtesy Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum)

BOSTON — At long last, the new wing of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum opens to the public on Thursday. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. The new addition offers visitors a chance to experience the museum from a stunning new perspective. The $114 million expansion includes a concert hall, expanded café and gift shop, as well as space for art conservation and artists.

Piano’s Palace: Officially opens Thursday, Jan. 19. 
More info at

The new wing was designed by "starchitect" Renzo Piano. The 70,000 square-foot stretch boasts a one-of-a-kind music hall, new gallery space, a new point of entry, a new café and the ability to transform the Palace’s Tapestry Room just as Isabella Stewart Gardner left it. Visitors will be bowled over by the finished product.

Openings in theater and film this weekend. 

"Superior Donuts"
The Lyric Stage Company through Feb. 4.
In a shabby Chicago neighborhood, a downtrodden donut shop owner (Will LeBow) hires a street-savvy aspiring young writer (Omar Robinson) with hustle and bright ideas. Full of laughs and compelling characters. 

Opens in theaters on Friday, Jan. 20.
Steven Soderbergh directs this dynamic action-thriller, which brings together a talented cast, including Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Bill Paxton. Escape into a world of government operatives and international intrigue. A terrific, energetic surprise. 

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Opens in theaters on Friday, Jan. 20.
Adapted from the acclaimed bestseller by Jonathan Safran Foer, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” is a story that unfolds from inside the young mind of Oskar Schell, whose father dies in the World Trade Center on 9/11. The movie stars Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn, Viola Davis, John Goodman and Max Von Sydow. Forgo the film, which falls a little flat, and consider the book instead. 

About the Authors
Brian McCreath Brian McCreath

Jared Bowen Jared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts. 


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