It once served as a nurses’ dorm for Massachusetts Eye and Ear. Now, the stately 1909 brick townhouse at the corner of Charles and Cambridge streets is a good place to (ta-dum!) nurse a drink.
Say hello to The Whitney, a new 65-room luxury boutique hotel in Boston’s Beacon Hill. Goodbye, John Jeffries House, which operated as a functional but no-frills hotel/hostel hybrid in this space for many years, post-dorm. Developer Related Beal bought the property in 2016 and launched a massive makeover. They retained the building’s exterior, but added a 12,000-square-foot addition that houses the hotel’s restaurant, some guest rooms, and the lobby. “People can’t believe that it is the same space,” says general manager Marina Aslanidou. A few good architectural bits remain in the interior, like the original fireplace in suite 203. There’s also a cool spot off the lobby where the building’s former façade is still visible.
Hard to imagine that the former parking lot is now home to Peregrine, The Whitney’s buzzy new restaurant. Helmed by Joshua Lewin and Katrina Jazayeri, the award-winning team behind Juliet in Somerville, Peregrine is already drawing a following. The short but interesting coastal Mediterranean menu — think Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, and Spain, not Italy — was influenced by the duo’s recent travels. Sardinia is definitely their sweet spot. “We fell in love with the culture, and the flavors,” Lewin says. (Buckwheat pasta noodles with sea urchin and earthy sea beans? Yes, please.) There’s no café seating outdoors, alas, but drinks are available in the garden courtyard.
With the wall of backlit bookshelves, comfy settees, and abundant artwork, The Whitney’s lobby looks like the living room of a stylish Beacon Hill condo. That’s the idea. “People like the homey, residential feel,” Aslanidou notes. Walls of windows bring in the vibrancy of Charles Street.
Named for Henry Melville Whitney, a Boston industrialist and owner of the site in the 1800s, The Whitney boasts nods to the city’s history with portraits of Whitney and a row of wooden ducklings. Décor accents were sourced from shops on Charles Street such as December Thieves; guests also get discount perks from the hotel’s retail partners. For those who want to explore by two wheels, The Whitney offers complimentary use of bicycles. Other appealing features: The hotel is pet-friendly, and instead of in-room mini-fridges (“too noisy, and they never work well,” Aslanidou says), The Whitney offers a pantry on each guest floor with complimentary cookies, fruit, and mixers for alcohol. (Rooms are stocked with local adult beverages for purchase.)
Guest rooms vary from kings to double queens and (four) suites, ranging in size from 260 to 500 square feet. Rooms are done up in soothing tones of gray, charcoal, and white, with an emphasis on “soothing:” Given the proximity to Massachusetts General Hospital, clientele at The Whitney might need some extra comfort. “We have guests coming from all over the world to be treated at the hospital. A guest might be a patient or a patient’s partner, or someone whose mother is in the ER,” Aslanidou says. For the GM, and other staff members, it’s a new perspective on hospitality, she says. Super jolly and super chatty is a no-go; sensitivity rules. “We adjust our demeanor to be respectful, and [to be] very thoughtful of peoples’ privacy,” Aslanidou explains. “You have to put yourself in their shoes.”
Hanging out at The Whitney (and grabbing a bite at Peregrine, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner) sure beats pacing around the waiting room at the hospital. To that end, the hotel offers day rates for those who want a quiet place to take a shower, relax, and get some rest while close to MGH. Then there’s the proximity of Charles Street, a great zone for walking and the distraction of all of those shops.
With its homey-meets-cosmopolitan vibe and mix of leisure, business, and medical travelers, you might say The Whitney is still a bit of a hybrid. But no matter why you land here, you’ll get your spirit boosted by the fanciful artwork — and free cookies.
The Whitney 170 Charles St., Boston, 888-673-3650; www.TheWhitneyBoston.com; nightly rates from mid-$200s to $400 depending on season; day rate, $150, available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Valet or local garage parking available.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.