By Hiroko Sato
GROTON -- Having lived for 91 years, Elliot "Barney" Blood Jr. said the four-alarm fire that destroyed the hundreds-year-old Blood Farm last December was the most horrible thing he has ever seen.
"It was like a torch," he said of the flames that rose to the night sky as he helplessly watched the building reduced to ashes.
But the loss of the historic farm established in about the mid-18th century -- and one of the only two federally approved slaughterhouses in Massachusetts -- also brought a positive experience for Blood. Had it not been for the overwhelming support from people from all around the community and beyond and their call for reopening of the business, he would have never tried to rebuild the farm, Blood said.
And he now looks forward to seeing the slaughterhouse and meat shop welcome back customers.
"I hope it comes out all right," Blood said of the building.
Nearly six months after the fire leveled Blood Farm, the reconstruction is well under way for an anticipated reopening in late summer or early fall. While no one was injured in the fire, it left the structure built in the 1970s, which had a smoke room, meat-processing facility and a retail shop in it, destroyed. The new structure taking shape looks identical to what used to stand in its place, except for a second-floor addition.
As Elliot's wife, Doris Blood said: "We built up instead of building wider."
A fifth-generation owner of the farm, Elliot said he wasn't thinking about rebuilding initially.
"To tell you the truth, I am 91 and wanted to retire," said Blood, who complains about gray hairs finally showing atop his head.
Then, people started to call him, asking him to rebuild and reopen.
Some of them were farmers who regularly took their animals to the Blood Farm for processing. Others simply wanted see the historic farm continue in business.
"(The support) built up, built up. Unbelievable," Elliot said. "Everybody has been so nice to my wife and I."
The community also got together in February to raise funds for the 20 employees of the farm, including part-time employees.
The preparation for the reconstruction began in February with the removal of debris, Blood said. Workers brought in a special equipment to remove soot and its smell off the brick walls to preserve what's left of the two-and-a-half-century-old farm. For example, a part of the red wall with the name of the farm painted on it -- which is next to the entrance to the retail store -- will be incorporated into the new wall.
The second floor will provide additional space for an business office and record keeping, according to Doris.
It all causes Elliot to say: "I wish I were younger -- I had more zip."