When you talk about the newly refurbished Langham Boston, it’s impossible to avoid the subject of money.
It begins with the budget for top-to-bottom renovation of the hotel, which is located in the nearly 100-year-old former Federal Reserve Bank of Boston building. When the Langham closed in 2019, it was slated to be shuttered for a year with a renovation budget of $85 million. By 2020, that number grew to $150 million and now, as the Langham makes its debut this month, the figure is officially over $200 million.
And there’s more money to talk about, specifically the banking history of the Renaissance Revival structure that was constructed in 1922 in Post Office Square. The building’s past life as a bank was quickly carpeted over when Le Meridien Hotels took over the building in 1981 (it became a Langham in 2003). While there were a few indicators of the building’s past life as a financial institution, the Langham’s two-year renovation sought to not only highlight them, but bring in new elements to give a respectful (and stylish) nod to its financial roots.
“We did try to keep a touch of the history throughout the hotel in a very subtle way,” explained Caitlin Bernal, project manager from Shawmut Design and Construction, as she began a tour of the hotel. “The buzz words that we’re using are the new American classic. So you’ll see a lot of inspiration in here from the history of the bank. A lot of the fabrics and a lot of the patterns are inspired by bankers’ suits. We’ll see some carpeting and wall coverings that are an homage to that.”
Many of these touches are subtle and easily missed. A carpet in the lobby has a design that’s inspired by the patterns found on the dollar bill. But, as Randy Shelly, Shawmut’s executive vice president of hospitality is quick to point out, “It’s in a tasteful way, and not in a tacky way.”
He’s right. The reimagined Langham is a tasteful, decidedly masculine space that finally brings the Boston outpost of the luxury hotel chain up-to-snuff with locations in London and Chicago. The hotel was in dire need of an update, and that’s being kind. Prices will also fall in line with those locations. Rooms start at $595 a night for the hotel’s opening weeks. Those rates will fluctuate throughout the year.
The look of the new Langham falls somewhere between 1922 and 2022. There are Art Deco silhouettes in the chairs and banquettes, but they’re upholstered in modern jewel tones (green, of course, is prevalent). Perhaps the biggest, and most welcome change is the street level cocktail bar. Formerly known as the Reserve, the bar is now known as the Fed. Unlike its previous incarnation, which felt undefined and flat, the Fed has taken on a publike intimacy. Even better, there’s now outdoor seating if you prefer to eat your lobster fries or shrimp mac and cheese outside.
It’s a much-needed addition to a neighborhood that was lacking sophisticated, postwork cocktail destinations.
The other change that most locals will notice is the hotel’s restaurant. Bond, a clubby hotspot with a DJ booth, cacophonous electronic music, and a clientele to match, has been replaced by an Italian restaurant called Grana. Sorry kids, the DJ booth is gone, but there is now a massive and minimalist liberty head (think money) piece of art hanging Oz-like against dramatic drapes.
The perimeter of the ceiling was restored to show the original decorative box trims and ornate plaster florals, which have been adorned with new gold leaf. The original brass Federal Reserve seal from 1922 remains in the center of the room. The carpet was removed and the terrazzo flooring underneath, which was damaged in several areas, has been carefully repaired. The restaurant is now significantly brighter and there are many more banquets. The dining area is surrounded by small brass lamps that bring to mind the petite lamps that would would have been in the bank in the 1920s.
The restaurant will open serving breakfast and lunch, but will eventually move to a dinner menu of Italian, family-style meals. Cafe Fleuri, which was known for its chocolate brunch, is no longer. The space is now a small ballroom.
The 312 guest rooms (plus eight two-floor loft suites) are nearly unrecognizable from their pre-renovation look. They feature new millwork along with a lighter, fresher color palette and new marble bathrooms. Guest room art references both money (of course) and scenes of Boston, to remind guests where they’re staying.
“What was important to us was to ensure that guests really get a sense of where they are,” Bernal said. “It was important to highlight the history of the bank, and also things that are unique to Boston, like the art from the Copley Society of Art. But over all of that, what we wanted to emphasize is that this is a luxury hotel with a mix of history and modern amenities.”
Christopher Muther can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther and Instagram @chris_muther.