Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
A rich history and a vibrant nightlife scene define this architecturally awesome hotel.
For nearly 150 years, the tall granite building at 215 Charles Street was known as the Charles Street Jail and housed some of Boston's most heinous criminals. In 2007, after a painstaking restoration that preserved elements of the prison design, it reopened as the Liberty Hotel. The result is stunning, with 298 rooms, a 90-foot-tall atrium, winding catwalks, and high, circular windows that flood the lobby with light.
The hotel has fun with the jail theme. Clink. is the name of the restaurant off the lobby; the walls of Alibi, the lounge downstairs, are hung with celebrity mug shots (Sinatra, Morrison, Nolte); instead of a typical "Do Not Disturb" sign, guests hang a "Solitary" key ring on their doorknobs. In places, the hotel has even kept the jail's iron bars and worked them into the decor. The lobby includes an exhibit that chronicles the building's history and details its restoration.
With it's architectural grace and intriguing backstory, the Liberty seems to aspire to greatness. It's certainly as memorable as any place I've ever stayed, but unfortunately the lackluster rooms and other guest features don't quite live up to the promise of the public spaces. That said, the Liberty is that rare Boston hotel where, during a weekend stay, you could choose not to venture off the property and still have all your needs and wants satisfied. The Liberty's bars and restaurants aren't merely stops for people staying at the hotel, but destinations in their own right, drawing a young and trendy crowd -- but perhaps not so much as the new W Boston downtown.
Adequate service, but nothing spectacular
The Liberty's entrance and vestibule are patrolled by friendly, helpful bellmen, but overall the hotel's service was lacking. Checking in took much longer than it should have, as several front-desk employees tended to guests but did not call for reinforcements or offer apologies as time went on (about 10 minutes) and a line formed. When I eventually did check in, nobody offered to help carry my bags.
In Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood, next to a large hospital
About two blocks from the Charles River, the Liberty sits on the western edge of Beacon Hill, a gorgeous residential neighborhood full of brick Federal-style homes. A quiet area with hidden gardens and more than 40 antique shops, Beacon Hill is a bit less tourist-focused than much of Boston, even though the nearby Acorn Street claims to be the most photographed street in America, and 84 Beacon Street, formerly known as the Bull & Finch Pub, was the inspiration for the show Cheers.
The hotel, alas, is situated a bit outside the scenic part of the neighborhood. Massachusetts General Hospital dominates the area around the Liberty, and there are busy expressways nearby. Still, it's only a short walk to shopping and restaurants on Charles Street.
A pleasant but lackluster balance of classiness and comfort
The jail theme, so prevalent throughout the hotel's public spaces, doesn't really make it into the rooms (except for the "Solitary" key ring you can hang on your doorknob instead of a "Do Not Disturb" sign). That's probably a good thing -- hotel themes have a way of becoming corny when they're overdone -- but unfortunately the result it just a little boring. The rooms are large and modern (standard rooms around 400 square feet), with a minimalist black, gray, and white color scheme. Still, I couldn't help thinking the Liberty could have had a little more fun with its rooms.
That said, comfortable beds, up-to-date technology, and great bathrooms add up to a cozy and contemporary experience. The furnishings are all high quality, and flourishes like dimmers for the lamps and a martini set on a mahogany tray contribute an air of romance. The minibar includes the usual items (candy, nuts, soda, liquor) but also extras like bloody mary and mojito mixes -- and an intimacy kit from a brand called Booty Parlor.
Unlike many hotels, the Liberty's business center is more than just a shadowy nook. Its two computers, printer, and copier, with free Internet access, are situated in the hotel's two-story conference center with meeting rooms and a lounge.
Not especially family-oriented, but not a bad choice either
There's nothing about the Liberty that's particularly unfriendly toward families or children, but the hotel is better suited for romance than a family getaway -- though some kids will undoubtedly be fascinated by the jail theme and there is a kids' menu at the restaurant.
Especially good for repeat visitors
The hotel allows pets. There's a one-time fee, but once you've paid it you don't have to pay again on future stays. The hotel provides free pet blankets, bowls, and treats.
A fastidious staff keeps the Liberty spotless.
With two renowned restaurants, the Liberty is a great hotel for foodies.
The Liberty has two restaurants and three bars. Clink., the restaurant just off the lobby, serves American fare. Boston magazine found that, "After plenty of unsteadiness, Clink has matured into an excellent upscale restaurant with a sure-footed chef." Scampo, under the direction of noted chef and Boston native Lydia Shire, serves contemporary Italian food. The restaurant's name, in a nod to the jail theme, means "escape" in Italian. There's a jail-themed cocktail bar, Alibi, and a lobby bar. The hotel's most recent addition -- Catwalk -- is on the second floor rotunda, overlooking the lobby. It was built on the exact site of the original serving the Charles Stree Jail and serves dinner and cocktails, most of which comes off of Clink's menu. An outdoor seating area -- The Yard -- is also available for private events.
A fun, unique place to attach the ball and chain.
Occupying a former jail, the 298-room Liberty Hotel is truly unique, with a playful design that incorporates the incarceration theme in fun ways. The stunning lobby, comfortable rooms and quality on-site restaurants make this hotel a good choice -- but mediocre service and amenities keep it from being a great one.
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