Give us an establishing shot. Why did this hotel catch your attention?At first glance, The Whitney looks like Beacon Hill’s coolest new condo building, thanks to large windows, chic signage, and gleaming new architecture. Inside, past the engineered-marble check-in desks and the floor-to-ceiling glass cabinets filled with books from prominent Massachusetts authors, is a huge mantel framed by several conversation areas (one with retro-inspired vintage trunks standing in for end tables), a brass elevator topped with an old-fashioned clock, and table lamps with built-in electrical outlets. The air feels fresh, cool, and fragrant, especially on the humid summer day when we stepped in, and the expanse of stylish gray paint will have you begging your decorator for an emergency house-call.
Is there an interesting backstory here?Built in 1909, the building that now houses The Whitney was originally part of Massachusetts Eye and Ear, a specialty hospital, before it became a B&B. Related Beal bought the property in 2016 and shuttered it in 2017 for a large-scale renovation; a 12,000-square-foot addition, attached via a glass connector to the original structure, expanded the capacity from 46 to 65 rooms. Named for the local American industrialist Henry Melville Whitney, who once owned this site, The Whitney owes its historically sensitive new architecture to the Boston-based firm Hacin + Associates, with interiors by Ealain Studio of Maine.
Tell us about your room. Give us a sense of what it was like being there.Our Premium King Suite (one of four suites), tucked into a corner in the hotel’s addition, opened into a tidy living room with tufted leather armchairs, nesting coffee tables, mismatched floor lamps, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Around the corner, past a spacious white-tile bath with a graphic, modern vanity strewn with Grown Alchemist toiletries, a huge corner bedroom offered views of the Charles/MGH Red Line platform in one direction and mid-rise brick buildings in the other. A quilted navy headboard and a sofa-like bench bookended the comfortable king-size WRIGHT bed, topped with piped Sferra linens. Much like the hotel’s public spaces, the details felt confident and masculine: a Georg Jensen cocktail kit and Schott Zwiesel Old Fashioned glasses, a woven herringbone throw monogrammed with “WH,” and three 200mL bottles of booze from Boston distillery Bully Boy. Fresh hydrangeas and a watercolor bearing a sailboat-strewn Charles River chimed in with softer touches.
Is there a charge for Wi-fi – and is the quality good?The Wi-fi was free, but it worked well one minute and cut out the next.
What does the hotel have for food and drinks? Is the sort of stuff you'd seek out if you weren't staying here?At Peregrine, the onsite restaurant from the team behind Juliet (named one of America’s Best New Restaurants in 2016 by Traveler’s sister pub Bon Appetit), a Mediterranean-influenced menu is a safe greatest-hits list of dishes like kale Caesar, Catalonian tomato bread, and roast chicken. The Quick section of the breakfast menu (not included in the room rate) ranges from yogurt and fruit to chickpea toast. There are also several egg dishes (including a zingy lemon-inflected omelet with pecorino and toasted breadcrumbs) and, in the Americano section, some clever riffs on decidedly non-Med favorites, from the B.E.C. (an egg on a croissant with cheddar and bacon) to the L.E.S. (a bagel with all the fixin’s).
Did anything strike you about the service?The service was excellent and personal, yet still unobtrusive. One of the bellhops quickly learned our son’s name (and greeted him as such every time we came and went), yet no one hovered when we turned the lobby into a de facto play space while waiting for a friend. Advance requests—a mini-fridge full of milk for the baby, a high chair, a crib—went above and beyond. Case in point: “Good Night Boston,” an illustrated baby board book, among the lovely array of tot-friendly amenities.
Who are your fellow hotel guests?Academics and execs visiting Harvard and MIT (Cambridge is just across the river), patients (and their families) at Massachusetts General Hospital, and 30- and 40-something locals popping in to ogle the lobby and clink wine glasses at the newest neighborhood hangout.
What else will we find in the area?The Whitney sits at the foot of Longfellow Bridge (which connects Beacon Hill to Kendall Square) just off the Charles River Esplanade, a scenic network of biking and pedestrian paths, playgrounds, and picnic-friendly green space. From your window, you’ll see a parade of Bostonians sneaking in their runs before work. Walk a few minutes in the other direction, and you’ll hit a SoulCycle, a Whole Foods, and other chichi brands that comprise daily life in Beacon Hill. This isn’t a hotel-rich neighborhood though; the closest boutique property is The Liberty, a former jail with a completely different vibe.
Is there anything you'd change?A proper ensuite configuration, rather than a bathroom in the living area, would be clutch for parents traveling with children young enough to be contained in cribs. And in our bedroom, the small corner window could stand for a wider covering so it truly functions like a blackout shade.
Any other little perks worth calling out?The gym is stocked with rowing machine from Hydrow, a new Kickstarter-funded line that was developed locally and integrates with live and on-demand classes, Peloton-style. The hotel also offers sailboat and yacht rentals on the Charles, borrowable bikes, and plenty of perks for pups, including treats, dog beds, and even loaned-but-sure-to-be-stole-by-someone monogrammed jackets. If you crave a late-night cookie but don’t feel like putting on shoes, tip-toe to the Whit Pantry (by the elevator on every floor), which is stocked with complimentary Fever Tree drinks, baked goods, fruit, and bags of ice. Finally, one of the nicest little elements of the hotel is the oasis-like courtyard just off the lobby; designed by landscape architect Matthew Cunningham, the space has a fountain, fire pit, and comfy seating.
Bottom line: Worth it?As the whimsical brass monocles hanging from each guest room door suggest, The Whitney promises a totally new look at one of the oldest cities in the country, and its diminutive size and indie status—no loyalty programs or points rooms here—will appeal to folks looking for intimacy and personality. It’s perfect for anyone who’s been to Boston a few times already, and especially those willing to eschew the obvious tourist sites to take on the expert perspective of a wealthy local.