One Of The Town’s Greatest Treasures
As a scholar of Groton history, I would like to spread the word that the most historic property in town, the Lawrence Homestead at 44 Farmers Row, has been just placed on the market for the first time ever. This property has been owned by the Lawrence family since the 1780s, with the front section of the present house built between 1796-97 for Revolutionary War soldier Major Samuel Lawrence.
It was inherited by his sons, including Amos and Abbott Lawrence, two of the greatest industrialists of early 19th century America. It ultimately passed to Abbott’s descendants, and upon inheriting the property in 1875, his grandson, James Lawrence II, engaged the noted Boston architectural firm of Sturgis & Brigham to design a large addition to the house, transforming the farm into a Gilded Age country seat. In 1889, he would commission the firm of Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture, to design the grounds of the property.
The idea for the Groton School was conceived by James’s wife, Caroline Estelle (Mudge) Lawrence in this house when the school’s founder, Rev. Endicott Peabody, came to visit the Lawrences in 1884. Later, James and Caroline would entertain FDR’s parents on multiple occasions when they came to visit him at the school. Today the property has been trimmed to just over 35 of its original nearly 400 acres, but the Olmsted landscaping and the house remain intact. This may not remain so under new ownership.
This property deserves to be a museum, and I believe that now is the time to make this happen, while its original features are still intact, inside and out. Although the Historic District Commission has some control over exterior alterations, the original interior has no such protections, and an unsympathetic new owner could destroy it. If converted into a museum, the building would have space for the long discussed Groton History museum in its 8,700 square feet. The big question is: what organization could pull off such a transformation?
It does not seem possible for a local organization to come up with the funds for this project, so I will be contacting Historic New England and The Trustees of Reservations to see if either would be interested in the property.
This historic property is truly one of the town’s greatest treasures; I believe it would be of great benefit to the town if it was opened to the public and preserved for the enjoyment of future generations, and I hope that it will be possible to do so.