Author: Cameron Sperance
Published: December 4, 2018
A tucked-away Beacon Hill hotel with a medical past is transforming into one of Boston’s most luxurious places to stay.
Charles Street is known for its mix of upscale shopping, restaurants and a second outpost of Savenor’s, Julia Child’s go-to butcher. The John Jeffries House was a budget-friendly bed-and-breakfast that operated for decades around the corner from the grocer, but that is now all in the past.
Massachusetts Eye and Ear, which originally built the Jeffries House in 1909 as a nurses dwelling, sold the 46-room property to Related Beal in 2016. The developer closed the hotel in November 2017 and is underway with a gut renovation that will rebrand and expand it into The Whitney, a 66-room boutique hotel that includes the original John Jeffries building and a 12K SF addition along Charles Street.
“We only closed the old hotel last year, but the thought process and the concept has been in the plan for years,” The Whitney Hotel General Manager Marina Aslanidou told Bisnow Monday on a tour of the construction site. “We wanted to immerse ourselves with what Boston, and Beacon Hill, is like and embrace the people and culture.”
While the John Jeffries House was named for a Boston physician, The Whitney gets its moniker from Henry Melville Whitney, a Brookline rail and steel magnate who founded the West End Street Railway Co., a predecessor to the modern MBTA.
Given how the John Jeffries House was originally used for hospital staff, Related Beal Senior Project Manager Michael Morrow told Bisnow there were some challenges in finalizing a layout for the project’s hotel form.
No two rooms in the original building are the same size after the elimination of some of the previous single-room accommodations. Premium corner suites will comprise a portion of the addition, which is attached to the original structure with a glass connector. Some rooms in the original John Jeffries building will offer views of the Charles River and the Cambridge skyline.
The extensive renovation is intended to give the new hotel the ambiance of a stately Beacon Hill townhouse and will feature a restaurant and bar that open onto a courtyard slated to include a water feature and
“Our ideal guest will be the luxury business traveler who wants to stay near their friend’s place in Beacon Hill, or the international traveler who wants to stay in the heart of Boston and stroll through Beacon Hill with a cup of coffee,” Aslanidou said. “We’re even located perfectly for the leisure traveler who wants to go to a game nearby at the [TD] Garden.”
She also recognizes the hotel’s ideal location near Massachusetts General Hospital and at the Charles/MGH MBTA Red Line station, one stop away from the many technology and life science firms in Kendall Square.
While the property is getting a significant overhaul as it transforms into The Whitney, the developer is mindful of neighbors and history. The fifth floor of the original building will retain all the hotel’s original features, while acoustic noise screens are being added to the roof of the building to keep sounds from the ground-level courtyard away from nearby residents.
“Everything is very sympathetic to the people who live nearby,” Morrow said.
The hotel, which is scheduled to open in spring 2019, comes at a time when several boutique properties are either in the works or have opened to great fanfare in Greater Boston. The Mount Vernon Co. is underway with the Revolution Hotel, a planned boutique hotel that will replace a former South End hostel.
Even Marriott is appealing to boutique-minded Boston travelers with the Envoy Hotel in the Seaport and The Row Hotel at Assembly Row in Somerville. Both properties are part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection of independently owned and operated hotels. The boutique push is something Aslanidou sees as a key ingredient for the Beacon Hill property’s future success.
“Even if you’re a brand-minded traveler, when you come to Boston, you want to stay somewhere that’s very Boston,” she said. “You can stay in a glass tower anywhere. There are very few historic townhouses.”