After a long career as a soldier, politician, and businessman, General William Bancroft started construction on his opulent retirement residence on Groton, Massachusetts’ picturesque Gibbet Hill, in 1906. Shawfieldmont was even the name he had in mind for his future mansion.
But when Bancroft ran out of money, his dream project was far from competition. The only completed sections were the cottage and tower. He owned the property for 12 years before selling it to Dr. Harold Ayers, who turned it into a sanatorium. Through the 1920s, the Groton Private Hospital, as Ayers called his institution, provided treatments and fresh air to locals with illnesses like tuberculosis who could afford to pay $20 per week.
The property changed from a sanatorium to a social center when the hospital closed toward the end of the decade. The social club hosted dances and other events that were organized by the Groton Hunt Club. Thing were going great until a Fourth of July celebration in 1932 went wrong. A fireworks disaster occurred which burned down a portion of the building.
The castle remains, which are now a part of a hiking route, provide stunning views and make the ideal dramatic backdrop for local photographers and cosplayers. There are many ghost stories associated with the hill, including sightings of persons dressed in colonial attire and having missing limbs, as there are with any ruins in New England combined with the local myth that the hill was used for hangings in the 1600s. It is by far one of the most famous abandoned spots in Massachusetts.
- Year Established: 1906
- Year Abandoned: 1932
- Original Function: Personal castle for General William Bancroft
- Address: Lowell Road
- Town: Groton
- State: Massachusetts
- GPS: Lat 42.6085366 Lng -71.5597671
- Parking notes: There is a small dirt parking lot at the trailhead located right along Lowell Road. Parking is free and does fill up quickly on weekends. Additional parking can be found on Main Street in Groton.
- Parking directions: HERE
- Location directions: HERE