The moment you enter The Liberty’s expansive lobby, you know this is unlike any hotel you have seen before. Exposed-brick walls rise to a vaulted ceiling. At each floor is a wraparound “catwalk” overlooking the main rotunda. Large circular windows at the ceiling beam in large rays of sunlight. It’s an expansive and striking design and one I have never seen in a hotel.
That may be because The Liberty used to be a jail. Originally built in 1851, The Liberty Hotel housed some of Boston’s most notorious criminals for 120 years before being declared unfit even to house prisoners. But in 1991, the land was bought and plans to do something more with the space got underway, eventually turning the space into an impressive luxury hotel that retains many of the original architecture and building materials. It opened in September 2007 and immediately became one of Boston’s premier properties since.
The Liberty is located at the foot of Beacon Hill, allowing visitors to walk out the front door and find themselves on the boutique- and restaurant-lined Charles Street leading to Boston Common, or at the walking along the Esplanade looking over the Boston River. Or they can just enjoy looking at these places—and many of Boston’s other landmarks—from the comfort of their hotel room.
The rooms are indeed comfortable. Jokes about how they seem to have upgraded the rooms since its prison days will be replaced by a simple thrill of amazement at the level of comfort and attention to detail. The Molton Brown products in the bathroom, the luxurious bed linens, and the Do Not Disturb signs hangers that look like a jail cell key if it was designed by Tiffany’s. The hotel includes 298 guestrooms total, 18 of which are within the landmark jail building itself, with the others in a 16-story tower built specifically for the hotel.
The Liberty also boasts a number of top-notch dining options. The treasure is Scampo (Italian for “escape”), headed by celebrated chef Lydia Shire. The restaurant serves Italian cuisine with a bit of global influence, with bread baked in Scampo’s large tandoori oven and a selection of creamy mozzarella cheese at the mozzarella bar.
On the entry level, Alibi was originally the drunk tank of the jail, where the intoxicated would be held overnight. Today patrons still enjoy their drink but they’re more likely to be sophisticated cocktails, enjoyed while sitting on the space’s leather sofas. On the lobby level, CLINK. offers a more straightforward selection of seafood, fresh produce and cheeses (though proved a surprisingly difficult place to get service).
But the real hot spot at the hotel is the Liberty Bar, located on the lobby level. At night, The Liberty’s massive 90-foot lobby rotunda turns into one of the hottest nightlife spots in Boston (and that’s not hyperbole—when asking locals where the fun spots are in the city, The Liberty came up more often than any other place). This is especially true on Thursday nights, when the hotel holds its “Fashionably Late” nights, where live music plays as models flaunt the work of a different designer each week across the lobby’s catwalk. A long line usually starts forming early, but hotel guests can walk right past the doorman by flashing their key card.
The VIP treatment for guests continues at Catwalk. Housed on the third-floor catwalk, this hotel-guests-only offers cocktails and food selections from the CLINK. menu with the people-watching entertainment of the crowd on the rotunda below. Enjoying oysters and champagne while taking in the busy club, who would have thought a jail could feel so luxurious?
The Liberty Hotel
215 Charles Street
Boston, MA 02114