October 17, 2016
If YOU READ my updated piece about the evolution of Boston’s Logan Airport, you’ll know that I consider it one of the country’s most attractive and underrated airports. As they say, I love what they’ve done with the place.
But let’s switch locations for a minute, to a spot in Boston that has, on the contrary, been taken down a notch. I’m talking about the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, the former Statler Hotel and a Boston landmark since 1927.
Winston Churchill once stayed at the Park Plaza. So did Gandhi. It’s that kind of hotel. Old-fashioned, you’d probably call it, or maybe “Old Boston.” The rooms can be tiny and drafty, with shoe-box sized bathrooms, but the location is outstanding, only steps from the Public Garden. The greatest thing about it, though, was its lobby. The lobby of the Park Plaza was a tourist attraction in itself, a sumptuous space of ornate molding, Oriental carpets and crystal chandeliers. It was a feast for the eyes, elegant, luxurious and quiet. It was anachronistic, sure, and special for just that reason: a lobby in the style of the world’s most classic hotels — a gilt and marble holdout in a time when accommodations everywhere are stripping down.
Well, not any more. I met a friend for a drink there a few weeks back, and when I walked into the lobby I nearly came out of my shoes. The place has been renovated, to the tune of some hundred million dollars, and the result is almost unspeakably awful.
The luxurious carpeting is gone; the ornate molding has been stripped away. Everything is white, sleek, and charmless. The chandeliers have been replaced by V-shaped, nightclub-style fixtures that bathe everything in screaming fluorescent light. At the back of the lobby, in the bar, the two-story arched windows have been covered over with wide-screen TVs. The multicolored hexagonal-pattern floor tiling has been replaced with simple black and white.
The lobby was always small, and now they’ve dropped a cafe right into the middle of it, with seats and tables clustered around what used to be valuable pedestrian space. There’s hardly room to move.
Worst of all, though, is the noise. The cafe is always jam-packed, and with the carpeting gone, the tiling, bare plaster and glass amplify every footstep and conversation. If that’s not bad enough, music is piped in — some shitty Euro-trash that blares through speakers mounted on the mezzanine. The lobby is so loud that one almost has to yell while checking in. Just a few feet away, in the cafe, patrons scream their orders to a waitstaff that must be suffering permanent hearing damage. It’s that loud. It looks peaceful in the photograph below, but that’s a very misleading shot. Photoshop in about a thousand people, and crank the music to eleven.
All together it’s a harsh mix of a 19th-century ballroom, a Newbury Street cafe, a nightclub, and a hospital operating room. The whole thing is just hideous — yet another property selling its soul in hopes of being described as “trendy,” “modern,” or that most nauseating of all aesthetic aspirations, “hip.”
If there’s one specific spot, a nexus that encapsulates the pompous vulgarity of the renovations, it’s the monstrous “hand chairs” found in the alcove just off the lobby cafe. See the photo below. Is this the Park Plaza, or a Grace Jones album? Mr.Churchill, just take a seat here for a moment and somebody will be with you…
A plea to the Omni Parker House: don’t let this happen to you.
Update: The Park Plaza responds:
Preference of style and decor is quite subjective and we can certainly appreciate diversity of taste. However, the “old” style of the Boston Park Plaza that you previously enjoyed was simply not the style preferred by the vast majority of our guests. Our hotel’s transformation did take us away from the more Renaissance style you describe, marked by heavy drapery, dark woods, and dated finishings such as the heavy, dark carpet you specifically mentioned. The designers thoughtfully kept key pieces of the building’s history and heritage in our public spaces such as the antique mail chutes and decorative wood carvings along the mezzanine, while creating modern, clean, airy designs for our guest rooms. We post plenty of new photography on our website and social media feeds to accurately set expectations regarding our post-renovation decor and style.
The renovation of our hotel now gives us the opportunity to serve the next generation of travelers with blazing fast internet, in-room streaming and casting capability, e-check in and checkout options, access to PressReader, and the opportunity to experience several new tenants that complete the experience such as STRIP by Strega, David Barton Gym, CYC Fitness, and, coming soon, Starbucks Reserve.
We understand that this updated product does not meet your taste, however, and thank you for giving us a try.
Boston Park Plaza Guest Relations.
I appreciate the hotel taking the effort to write. We can argue whether the results are, in fact, an improvement, but if indeed a vast majority of guests disapproved of the property’s older styling, then it’s hard to argue that a major renovation wasn’t a good idea. Their case is a perfectly reasonable one. Taste factors aside, however, the letter fails to address the noise issue, which is possibly the biggest negative. — PS