Boston is less than 40 miles from my home, so typically if we want to spend the day or go to an event there it’s easy enough to make the drive in & out (minus the ridiculous traffic that occurs at every.hour.of.the.day). But, my friend was celebrating a big birthday and I knew driving wasn’t going to be an option, so started looking at different places to stay. I was shocked to find a room at the Omni Parker House for less than $100 (keeping in mind it was also February in New England). I knew that it was one of the oldest hotels in Boston, but didn’t know much other than that. So glad I used this opportunity to stay there and learn so much about its history!
- The original Parker House Hotel opened on October 8, 1855 – making it today the longest operating hotel in the United States. That is pretty amazing. Harvey Parker, founder of the hotel, built the “immense establishment of marble” on the corner of Tremont & School Street and worked there until his death in 1884. Since, the hotel has changed hands a number of times, but today is currently owned by Omni Hotels.
- Many additions and renovations took place between 1866 and 1925, including the additional floors and overall aesthetics that you see in place today. One wing of the original hotel was open until the current building was completed, which is how they are able to claim that it is America’s oldest operating hotel (that section does not remain intact today).
- The Parker House introduced the “European plan” to American hotels. Previously, meals were included as part of the room fee but would only be scheduled at certain times. So, it was quite the change for the hotel to simply charge for the room, and offer food as a separate charge and at the leisure of the guest.
- One of the owners, John Whipple, owned a dairy farm in New Hampshire that provided the freshest & finest produce for the hotels restaurants, which include “The Last Hurrah” and “Parker’s Restaurant”, both of which still operate today.
- Chocolate was a local favorite, as America’s first chocolate mill opened just outside Boston in 1765. However, the Boston Cream Pie was invented by the Parker’s House Chef Anezin, originally called the “Parker House Chocolate Cream Pie”. Let me personally say thank you, Chef Anezin!
- The Saturday Club, started in 1855, was an informal monthly gathering on the fourth Saturday of each month where writers, scientists, philosophers, historians and other notable minds of the time met. Members of the Saturday Club included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Francis Parkman and Dr. Oliver Wendall Holmes to name a few.
- I was surprised at just how many famous visitors have stayed at the Omni Parker House, including:
- Charles Dickens, who stayed there for five months from 1867-1868 and performed “A Christmas Carol” for the Saturday Club – how amazing is that?!
- John Wilkes Booth stayed there only eight days before assassinating President Abraham Lincoln – insane. He was in town to see his brother perform in a play.
- Mark Twain has long been quoted as calling the hotel “heaven” during a stay, as reported by the Boston Globe in 1877 as saying “You see for yourself that I’m pretty near heaven – not theologically, of course, but by the hotel standard”.
- James Michael Curley, the Irish-American “Mayor of the Poor” of Boston spent a lot of time at the hotel, especially considering the Old City Hall is directly across the street.
- John F. Kennedy celebrated many milestones at the hotel, including the announcement of his candidacy for Congress in 1946, his proposal to Jackie Bouvier at Parker’s Restaurant (they say it happened at table 40 if you visit!) and he also hosted his bachelor party there in 1953.
- Malcom X, then Malcolm Little, was a busboy at the hotel restaurant in the 1940s.
- Emeril Lagassee started as a sous chef in the Parker Restaurant from 1979 – 1981.
- While there are reports of hauntings, it is not true that Stephen King’s short story 1408 was based on haunted happenings that have taken place in room 303. Charles Dickens stayed on the third floor, and guests say they can sometimes smell cigars, a well known vice of Dickens. I’m glad I knew nothing of this prior to my stay.
It really is all about the the gilded elevators, the mahogany and the ornate decor in the lobby. The rooms are standard hotel rooms (although I’m sure the more expensive ones are gorgeous) and the restaurants, while having some great stories & history within them, are also pretty standard. So, the lobby is definitely my favorite place!
- Don’t miss the detailing on the wall sconces throughout the lobby
- The Parker Coat of Arms was a nice touch to see above the staircase, proclaiming “Fideli Certa Merces”, meaning “To the faithful there is certain reward”
- Clearly you can visit the hotel without staying here, and if you are in the area it is definitely worth a walk thru!
- You really can’t pick a better location to stay – everything you would want to see within downtown Boston is a quick walk, and there are multiple T stations nearby!
- The only downfall is parking, but that is a tale as old as time in Boston. The hotel offers valet for easily the same amount that you would pay to park in a garage, so it makes it just as easy and affordable to valet!