Boston’s Liberty Hotel is one of the city's historical landmarks that reopened just five years ago after a $150 million dollar makeover. It has won numerous awards, including U.S. News’ “2011 Best Hotels in the U.S.” With a chic Charles street location, classy restaurants, and evening turn-down service, it may surprise you to learn that people were once trying to break out of it. In fact, before 1991, the hotel was The Charles Street Jail. The property was renovated extensively in the years following the closing of the prison and eventually reopened as the Liberty Hotel in 2007.
Most people visiting the city of Boston are looking for a piece of American history, and this hotel certainly delivers. Built in 1851 by then prominent architect Gridley Fox James Bryant as the holding place of Boston’s most notorious criminals, its design “resonated with a strength and dignity appropriate for the era and for Bostonians’ sensibilities,” according to historians. Prisoners revolted in 1973 due to poor living conditions however and by 1991, the building was out of use. The property was transformed into a hotel with the hard work and collaboration of designers, architects and conversationalists, keeping the authenticity of Bryant’s original plans intact.
In the transformation, the architects added several illuminating aspects, making it more welcoming. The central building features four ocular windows and three-story arched windows resulting in “light-filled interiors,” that highlight the design team's work to “honor the building’s rich history while imparting a contemporary vibrancy” to the furnishings.
In spite of the years of inhumane living conditions that prisoners endured on the premises, the Liberty Hotel promises to pamper its guests, so that they will never want to leave. They offer many complimentary services like concierge and overnight shoe shining, as well as activities that are rare for a hotel, such as Saturday Yoga and Running Concierge, both of which are offered seasonally at the Liberty. Extra amenities include luggage liaison, 24 hour room service and valet. Each room is equipped with WiFi, a high def LCD TV, plush bathrobes, a private bar and martini set, evening turn down, and even a safe to secure your valuables.
The hotel property also features five dining and drinking options all of which have a character all their own. Clink, which is open to the public and hotel guests alike features “vestiges of original jail cells.” Chef Joseph Margate specializes in seasonal American Cuisine, using sustainable and local ingredients. Alibi is ironically located in the Charles street jail’s former “drunk tank”, and is a city hot spot for cocktails and mingling. The bar also features an outdoor patio right off the street with a view of the sunset.
Scampo is award winning Chef Lydia Shire’s newest creation. It is located on street level and offers contemporary Italian food and atmosphere. The restaurant also has a 38-seat private dining room, perfect for birthdays or receptions. The Liberty bar is located right in the hotel lobby, at the heart of Boston’s nightlife. It is teeming with energetic socializing and drinking. Catwalk is located above, on the original Charles Street Jail catwalk that surrounds the lobby. The bar is open to hotel-guests only, and shares dinner service and a bar menu with Clink.
Ranging from $399 to $829 a night, the Liberty caters to its guests’ every need. Perhaps the fact that it was once an unfit penitentiary has made hotel administrators feel the need to compensate with uncommonly attentive service. The hotel even provides guests with complimentary bicycles (seasonally) if they wish to take in the historical city at a slower pace than their automobile would allow. Even if the services were not above and beyond the call of duty, the building is itself a legendary landmark and deserves at the very least a visit.