In the rural yet humming enclave of Georgetown, the fire department’s noon whistle sounds daily. You can sit on a stool at the local hangout, Jimmy K’s, for lunch and see your friends. You can haul your junk to Mello’s, and they’ll take it. You don’t have to go the mall to get your nails done—instead, go to LeBa’s Nails on Central Street—or shop for a discount wedding dress (for that, there’s Tulle Bridal Designer Outlet on West Main Street). Then there’s Crosby’s market, which provides “on the go” homemade soups and salads, plus wine and beer tastings.
This small New England village was incorporated in 1883, when those living in the West Parish broke away from Rowley and established their own town. Farming, shoemaking, and sawmills all helped Georgetown grow and prosper. It’s a town full of handsome 19th-century wood clapboard houses lining back roads with names like Elm, Maple, Winter, Brook, and Pingree Farm. Georgetown is easily accessible; Routes 97 and 133 cut through east/west and north/south on the way to Andover, Boxford, Haverhill, Rowley, or Newbury. It’s a short hop to I-495 or I-95 to Boston or New Hampshire. Push the walk button at the traffic light on Main and Central Streets, and people zooming by on their way to somewhere else happily stop for you.
“Georgetown is finally recognized as a diamond in the rough,” says Steve Horne, a 25-year resident. “The rural setting [that is] a half hour to most anywhere—Boston, Portsmouth, the beaches, the malls—and a couple of hours or less to the mountains has made it a gem for rural living.”
One of the great things about Georgetown is that townspeople pitch in to make the town tick. The “Bob committee” runs Camp Denison (the majority of members happens to be named Bob, hence its name) with a host of 25 enthusiastic volunteers. “Without the volunteers, Camp Denison would not exist,” says Bob Gorton, who has lived here for nearly 50 years. Camp Denison on Baldpate Pond, established in 1931 as an inner city camp, includes the Great Lodge where Amelia Earhart once scanned the skies from its rooftop and Aldo Leopold developed nature programs.
In Georgetown, retirees stick around to take their grandchildren to sports practice and volunteer to keep the town going. Adding to the hometown feel is the fact Georgetown has its own schools, as well as its own electric company, so you won’t lose power for very long during an outage.
“[Georgetown] has grown from a fairly insular town to one that is very open, hip, and fun,” says Donna Capodelupo, news editor for the Georgetown Record. Funky old stores, like Meader’s General Store, which sells both antiques and penny candy, wouldn’t survive Main Street America in most towns, but this town appreciates antiques. Take Sedler’s Antiques as an example (see “On The Town”). The Historical Society, lead by Chris Komiskey, sits proudly in the Brocklebank-Nelson-Beecher House, first built in 1668 and later bought in 1858 by Rev. Charles Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Outdoor activities abound in Georgetown. It has two ponds, Rock and Pentucket, the latter of which has the town beach. The Black Swan Country Club has one of the best public golf courses on the North Shore. Residents enjoy strolling through the Georgetown Rowley State Forest, which connects to the Boxford State Forest and goes for miles. Georgetown Fish and Game has its own clubhouse on Pentucket Pond.
History is alive and well here, too. The original cannon “Old Nancy,” taken from a British ship off Cape Ann in the Revolutionary War (and allegedly stolen from Rowley in the early 19th century), is on display in the Town Hall basement. The Erie 4 Fire Company, established in 1854, is the oldest privately owned and operated volunteer fire company in the country; it stays solvent through inventive fundraisers.
Janet Pantano, administrative assistant to the Board of Selectmen, moved here decades ago for the “small town feel” of the place that has only 100 kids in the graduating high school class and where everyone can play on a team if they want. Church fairs, ham and bean suppers, parades—that’s why she’s here.
Georgetown has a lot to be proud of—and for residents to enjoy—in this laid-back-but-happening town.
Date of Settlement: 1639 Date of Incorporation: 1838 Zip Code: 01833 Population: 8,183 Total Area: 13.2 square miles Median Household Income: $76,260 Schools: Perley and Penn Brook Elementary Schools, Georgetown Middle-High School. Notable Residents: Brian St. Pierre (football player), Jenny Thompson (U.S. Olympic swimmer), Terry O’Reilly (hockey player), John Updike (author), Paul Harding (author), Charles Beecher (brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe).
In the Club
The run-down Georgetown Country Club experiences a rebirth as the Black Swan.
Two years ago, the fairways at the old Georgetown Country Club were overgrown. The restaurant and function rooms were quiet, the parking lot empty. In June 2010, the venue reopened as the Black Swan Country Club, and all that changed.
The club’s new ownership renovated the 18-hole par-72 golf course and brought back the manicured grounds. Today, patrons can buy range balls in the pro shop and sharpen their short game on the practice green. Two PGA golfers offer careful instruction.
The off-season in January and February is one of the best times to dine at the award-winning Keon’s Grille, which is open to the public. The grille menu is offered daily for lunch and dinner, except Mondays. Friday and Saturday night a live band performs. The Sunday brunch with music by local singer Dan Sky is extremely popular. In summer, the outdoor patio near the 18th hole is a big draw, but in January, Keon’s owner Alan Boisvert offers specials to lure diners.
With revamped function spaces, weddings are booked through 2014, but in slower months, function rooms host comedy, music, and dance events for the public. Things are looking up at the Black Swan and in Georgetown, which now has something new and special to offer. 258 Andover St., 978-352-2900, blackswancountryclub.com
The essential stops for your Georgetown visit.
Sedler’s Village Antiques
Owners Bob and Pat Sedler have added gleaming American-made wood furniture, some of which Bob designs himself, to their dazzling array of antiques, collectables, vintage clothes, lamps, jewelry, dolls, and more. Located in a rambling 1860 Victorian farmhouse, Sedler’s was one of the North Shore’s first antique co-ops. There is so much here, it’s hard to describe everything, so it’s best to go look for yourself. Pat says her husband insists on being open seven days a week, so you can drop by anytime. 51 W. Main St., 978-352-8282, sedlersvillage.com.
Most kids (and their feet) grow so fast that their soccer shoes and ski boots are still like new before they no longer fit. That’s what Todd Newton counts on as he resells used athletic equipment, including mountain bikes, snowboards, basketball shirts, and even pogo sticks, all in good condition (he’s picky) and at great prices. Post Office Building, 64 Central St., 978-768-7541.
The pond is stocked every spring with rainbow trout and sometimes browns and brookies, as well as largemouth bass. The Georgetown Fish and Game Club holds an annual ice fishing derby, but if you’re not into fishing, the skating is just fine. 11 Lake Ave., 978-352-9831, georgetownfishandgame.com.
Rory O’Connor’s Irish Pub
Come for the traditional Irish pub food—Guinness beef stew, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, chicken curry, and homemade bread pudding—plus a fire in the big stone hearth and live Irish music Tuesday and Sunday. You’ll think you’re back in Galway, which is just how new owner Mike Beatty wants it. 19 W. Main St., 978-769-5053, roryoconnorsishpub.com.
Georgetown-Rowley State Park
Watch the woods fill up with snow as you cross-country ski or snowshoe through a winter wonderland. Bring your dog: This 1,112-acre forest provides plenty of trees and trails to keep him busy. Pingree Farm Road, 978-887-5931. mass.gov/dcr/parks/northeast/grow.htm.
Nunan Florist and Greenhouses
This 86-year-old greenhouse grows thousands of its own plants in 20 greenhouses that owners Bill Guerrini and Steve Flynn—along with no fewer than five floral designers and expert horticulturalists—tend to with TLC. 269 Central St. (Route 97), 978-352-8179, nunans.com.
Shop Pratt’s has managed to stay afloat for 35 years, offering all things fast–Traxxas racing trucks (zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds!), sailboats, and remote- control airplanes. It also hosts remote-control races and offers model airplane flying lessons. 20 E. Main St., 800-870-4068, pratthobbyshop.com.
Twisdenwood Horse Farm
Jill Bowden offers lessons for children and adults, beginner to advanced, using the farm’s four roomy barns, three riding rings (one indoor), and open grass hacking track. Tally ho! 240 Andover St., 978-314-8258, twisdenwoodfarm.com