A Personal Journey to a Billion Dollar Hotel: Encore Boston Harbor

Susan Kime

Encore Boston Harbor is a 33-acre casino hotel property, not in Boston Harbor but on the Mystic river, in the industrial part of Boston. It is a unique hotel in a unique location, one where flowers appear to bloom, even in November and December when we were there, and no surface seems average. Under the guest’s feet are usually gold or red or bright blue mosaic patterns. Then, in the lobby, there is the carousel. It is huge,—made entirely of silk flowers and crystals—and on the carousel seats are stuffed animals – monkeys, bears and the like. Sort of a Disney paradise in a casino hotel. Unique and memorable, as is its cost.

The first thing we learned about Encore Boston Harbor is its price tag; $2.6 billion. Such numbers also pervade each element of Encore: a 210,000-square-foot casino, 15 dining outlets, 671 guest rooms and suites --including a 5,800-square-foot Presidential Villa-- plus 50,000 square feet of event space, a 450-seat buffet restaurant, and a staff that includes graduates from The Greater Boston Gaming Career Center at Cambridge College, that Encore helped develop in order to cultivate an east coast casino workforce. 

Even the carousel, designed by Preston Bailey who did floral sculptures at Wynn Las Vegas, has astounding stats: 15,000 pounds, 83,000 flowers, and 11,000 jewels. This is the fourth Wynn Resorts property worldwide and those who know Wynn benchmarks will see them here: an ultra-opulent design aesthetic, unique art almost everywhere, all chosen by Wynn’s art curator Roger Thomas. 

Thomas designed the hotel chandeliers more than a decade ago. They are red. Each chandelier has more than 1,000 pieces of Murano Venetian glass from the Italian island of Murano.  The chandeliers were hung in Las Vegas before appearing in Encore Boston Harbor. Each one was disassembled, cleaned with vinegar and stored in various boxes before getting re-assembled above the casino floor.

Guests will also find Viola Frey’s “Amphora IV,” a glazed ceramic urn that sits in the lobby at the base of two unique, curved escalators, and the distinctive “Billion 1” by modernist Charles Arnoldi, a painting that is created from tree branches and resin that hangs behind the reception desk. Around the resort, decorative works are seen: 19th century Venetian mirrors, 18th-century giltwood panels and architectural elements sourced from antique galleries around Paris and Venice. 

Outside the hotel, on the riverwalk that winds around the hotel on the Mystic riverside, are three Jaume Plensa sculptures created monumental portraits of women. The three, ten-foot-high stainless-steel portraits look out to the Boston skyline and back toward the hotel. These works are among his first cast in stainless steel.

In addition, the art is the casino: there are security guards everywhere. But again, oddly but thankfully, there is a Dunkin Donuts next to the gambling area, so one can drink coffee, eat donuts and other AM items while pondering where to play.  

In both casino and lobbies, those who walk are mélanges of boomers, local gaming enthusiasts, and young people who are going to weddings or engagement parties at the hotel. We saw many in Boston team shirts, Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins.  Unlike its Vegas counterpart, Encore Boston Harbor is completely smoke-free.

More detail: The rooms are large, comfortable, and thoughtfully appointed; and the brand’s signature-- a high-design, playful opulence-- is apparent everywhere. The spa is an area unto itself is a lavish urban escape, and taken as a whole, the hotel has a feel similar but different from Las Vegas. The Encore, after all, is on the Mystic river, and is close to historic Boston. The location alone separates it from its desert relation.

Encore could indeed be considered an art hotel on the Mystic, or a casino hotel near Boston Harbor. The hotel has multiple identities, yet on the whole, the experience defined one identity: that of opulent, yet kindly remembered, excellence.

Susan Kime

Murano Glass chandeliers

Susan Kime

Jaume Plensa outdoor sculptures

Barbara Kraft

Casino, Encore Boston Harbor

Encore Boston Harbor

Billion 1 by Charles Arnoldi

Susan Kime

Encore Boston Harbor, Riverwalk

Susan Kime

Susan Kime's career combines publishing, journalism and editing. She was the Destination Club/Fractional Update Editor for Elite Traveler, and senior club news correspondent for The Robb Report's Vacation Homes. Her work has been published in Stratos, Luxury Living, European CEO, The London Telegraph, Caviar Affair, ARDA Developments, and Luxist/AOL. She was the Editor-in-Chief of Travel Conno...(Read More)

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