Built by a man who counted Winston Churchill and the Duke of Windsor among his friends,The Lenox Hotel came on the scene at the turn of the 20th century with great fanfare.
The year was 1900. Boston, along with New York, was the financial center of America and had already staked its claim as the nation’s intellectual and medical capital. The ruling class, known as the Boston Brahmins, was facing off politically with the Irish Catholics. A budding startup known as American League was birthing its baseball franchise on Huntington Avenue Grounds. And a ‘rags-to-riches’ hotel impresario known as Lucius Boomer had just erected Boston’s tallest building — a $1.1 million, 11-story Beaux-Arts hotel, which he would name for Lady Sarah Lennox, wife of King George, III.
The lavishly appointed Lenox Hotel, as reviewed by The Boston Post, was ‘The Waldorf-Astoria of Boston’ – an obvious nod to Boomer’s famous New York City property. Perched on the corner of Boylston and Exeter streets in the heart of stylish Back Bay and vibrant Copley Square, The Lenox quickly became a hub of activity for newsmakers and legends, helping to inspire its modern-day brand as The Original Boutique Hotel. Be it the arts, politics, sports or entertainment, The Lenox attracted a bevy of luminaries, or Originals, as we like to call them.
The coming century would weave a tapestry of innumerable stories, quirky anecdotes and memories of a lifetime– some of which we know, some of which we’ll never know – all of which contribute to the lore – and the lure – of The Lenox. But for all its gilded gold and crenulated cornices, the true treasure of the building that is Boston’s Lenox Hotel lies within the millions of visiting guests who flocked – each creating their own original stories. Here are some of The Lenox’s notable stories and tidbits passed down through the century.
In 1901, marathon runners appear in photographs for the first time, rather than line drawings, in local newspapers, and the new Lenox Hotel begins its long-running tradition as the epicenter of the Boston Marathon
In 1907, Lenox-invited Italian performer Enrico Caruso makes world headlines with his splashy arrival – the famed tenor wows Boston onlookers by pulling alongside The Lenox Hotel on a public rail in his private, plush railroad car –an activity reserved for the rich and famous.
In 1914, James Michael Curley begins his 4-term political reign as Mayor of Boston. Notorious for his rogue dealings and extravagant spending, Curley makes great use of The Lenox’s function rooms – so much so, that Curley’s son settles the Mayor’s outstanding hotel bill in the 1920s with a gift of portraits of George and Martha Washington, now hanging in the hotel’s Executive Offices.
The 1920s usher in baseball legends like Babe Ruth – a colorful and frequent guest of The Lenox Hotel. If the walls could talk, we imagine they’d tell some entertaining stories.
In 1924, The Lenox is sold to hotelier Roscoe Prior, former owner of the grand Brunswick Hotel, also in Copley Square, just behind Trinity Church.
The 1940’s find The Lenox Hotel doing double duty by hosting the U.S. Navy who bunked at the hotel throughout World War II.
In 1955 The Boston Celtics win their first NBA Championship in double overtime and legendary Celtics’ coach Red Auerbach begins a 13-year stint at The Lenox Hotel – residing during training seasons and hosting plenty of poker games until the late 1960’s.
In 1963 the Saunders family acquire Lenox Hotel on the heels of hotelier Roger Saunders turning around neighboring Copley Square Hotel.
In 1964 Diamond Jim’s opens at The Lenox Hotel (now City Table) with ‘Boston’s Grand Dame’ pianist Gladys Troupin and would enjoy a 30-year run of legendary performances and open-mic nights, becoming one of the most famous piano bars in the country.
In 1965 Hollywood’s favorite diva, Judy Garland, brings glamour to Boston as she makes The Lenox home for three months; Lenox would later custom-design the opulent Judy Garland Suite to pay homage to the legendary singer.
In 1966, Roger Saunders hires set designers from England to create exact replica of a British pub, which is then shipped piece-by-piece from Liverpool and installed as Olde London Pub & Grille (now Solas Irish Pub).
In 1968 portions of “Boston Strangler,” a movie starring Tony Curtis is filmed at The Lenox, which also features a Lenox’s Sales Manager, whose hands ‘co-star’ as the Strangler’s hands in film close-ups.
In 1970 The Lenox helps script “Love Story” thanks to celebrities Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw who portray the Harvard lovebirds in the cult movie classic and stay at the hotel while filming in Boston and Cambridge.
From the 1970’s until present day, The Lenox would go on to host a steady stream of Originals – Luisa Prada, George H.W. Bush, Tony Bennett, Helena Bonham Carter, Katie Couric, Michelle Pfeiffer, The Cast of Oscar-winning movie “American Beauty,” John Travolta, John Kerry, Adam Sandler, Andy Garcia, Marc Cohn, Patti Lupone, Anne Hathaway, Hunt Slonem and Dr. Jane Goodall — all who’d check-in for the Lenox experience. But it has been the owners’ commitment to preserving The Lenox – the building, the service philosophy, the history…The Story – that would keep so many guests coming back.
Under the meticulous stewardship of Saunders Hotel Group, The Lenox continues to thrive as one of Boston’s most popular hotels, delivering a personal touch that’s truly absent in today’s hotel chains. Since acquiring the hotel in 1963, SHG has funded and overseen a series of restorations, earning worldwide recognition for its fusion of historic preservation, eco-initiatives and design. Its recent $50 million renovation of The Lenox Hotel spanned nearly a decade and touches every one of the 214 guest rooms and suites and building’s façade. The company’s unwavering commitment to total guest comfort, eco innovation and a strong sense of civic responsibility characterize the Saunders family’s management approach, an ideology that led to an industry-first environmental program and its recognized positioning as a global pioneer in luxury, urban ecotourism.
Though The Lenox’s century-old reputation for excellence is long justified and steeped in tradition, it’s the Saunders’ long-standing commitment to exemplary service that keeps The Lenox as fashionable as its shiny competitors, a quality revered by guests and clients alike. In 2010 The Lenox Hotel partnered with Stash Hotel Rewards, the first of its kind loyalty program devoted solely to independent boutique properties to incentivize travelers wishing to break free from big, bland hotel chains. Stash, like Saunders Hotel Group, was founded on a belief in the happiness-producing power of traveling to places that convey a unique and interesting story — places with soul. Places like The Lenox.