During the week in February when my husband Nick was in Mass General Hospital in Boston for cardiac tests and procedures, he booked me a brief stay at the Liberty Hotel on Charles Street, which is only steps away from the MGH. It turned out to be one of the most unusual hotels I’ve stayed in, because it was built in 1851 to be the Charles Street Jail. The design, by architect Gridley James Fox Bryant, is considered one of the best examples of “Boston granite style” with an octagonal central building topped by a cupola and four radiating wings .
According to the history available at the reception desk, in 1973, after 120 years of housing some of Boston‘s most notorious criminals, the prisoners revolted because of bad living conditions and the jail was declared unfit. But not until 1990 were the last prisoners moved to the new Suffolk Country Jail.
Other restaurants are called Clink, Scampo (Italian for “escape”) and the Catwalk, where I had a late supper on one of the three catwalks lining the huge central atrium, which were used by patrolling guards to keep an eye on prisoners in their cells.
There was live music from the 90-foot-wide rotunda below, and, in front of me, models were being photographed. In good weather there is also a secret garden in the enclosed courtyard outside, called “The Yard.”
I spent most of my time in Nick’s hospital room, so couldn’t take advantage of the hotel’s many amenities including complimentary yoga, bicycles and shoeshines. But I didn’t reject the complimentary glass of sparkling wine when I checked in.
He was free to go. So before they could change their mind, we flew the coop.