Ayer is located in the Nashoba Valley of northwestern Middlesex County. Shirley borders the community on the west, Littleton to the east, Harvard to the south and Groton to the north. Leominster is just 10 miles to the west. In addition to commuter rail, residents have access to three major highways -- I-495, I-290 and Route 2 - that provide residents with easy access to Boston, Lowell, Worcester and other major surrounding cities.
The valley is known for its great natural beauty. There are thousands of acres of preserved natural terrain allowing for recreational opportunities such as swimming, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, canoeing and cross country skiing and more. Ayer is a quaint, young town that also has many recreation, historical and cultural areas.
The students of the community are served by the Ayer Public School District that operates one elementary, middle and high school. The town?s higher educational needs are served by Wachusett Community College and Western New England College. A number of prestigious universities are within a short drive including a state college in nearby Fitchburg and the University of Massachusetts in Lowell. Prestigious Harvard University is located in the city of Boston.
Ayer is one of the most economically viable towns in Massachusetts for residential, commercial and industrial development. It has one of the lowest tax rates in the state. Although Ayer is mainly a residential area, its proximity to major transportation links has greatly benefited the manufacturing industry and has fueled industrial development throughout the town.
Camp Devens was established in 1917 on about 5,000 acres of land first leased, then later purchased from 112 owners who sold 250 parcels of land in the towns of Ayer, Harvard, Lancaster and Shirley to the United States of America. The Camp processed and trained more than 100,000 soldiers of the 76th and 12th Divisions. In 1918, it became a separation center for over 150,000 troops upon their return from France. Put on inactive status, it served next as a summer training camp for National Guardsmen, Reservists and ROTC cadets until it was made a permanent U.S. Army post in 1931.
Fort Devens became a reception center for hundreds of men from all over New England during World War II. Building boomed and more than 1,200 wooden barracks were thrown together. An airport, known later as Moore Army Airfield, was opened in 1942.
Despite a valiant political effort to keep it open, Fort Devens closed in 1995 under the national Base Realignment and Closing Act. Many parts of the base have been placed on the National Register of Historic Districts. The city capitalized on the closure by launching a successful redevelopment project that has helped fuel the area economy.
The modern history of Ayer dates back to the mid-1800s when the railroad came to town. The city was first known as Groton Junction and was incorporated in February of 1871. The town?s location on the main line of the Fitchburg Division of the Boston and Maine Railroad helped the city grow in the early years. The city is named for Dr. James Cook Ayer, a citizen of Lowell who gave the town the sum of $10,000 to fund development in the city. Less than a year later, a fire destroyed most of the city. Residents banded together and rebuilt the downtown including a new townhouse that still stands today.
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