Hotel Review: Former 19th Century Office Building in Boston’s Financial District offers 21st Century Comfort as Design-Driven Deluxe Hotel.

The deluxe Ames Boston Hotel (center right with historic facade) was the former Ames Office Building, the tallest building in Boston when constructed in 1883. (photo courtesy Ames Boston Hotel)

Review by Ron Bernthal

From the Orange Line’s State Street subway station I walked across the street to the Ames Boston Hotel, a 13-story, luxury boutique property that had once been Boston’s tallest skyscraper when it opened as an office building in 1893. Originally the home of the Ames Company, a manufacturer of America’s first shovels and other agricultural tools, the firm was founded in the 1770’s and is the oldest existing company in the United States, now headquartered in Pennsylvania.

The building became one of the tallest masonry load bearing-wall structures in the world, meaning the 13 story building was built without steel, with a three story granite base and sandstone and brick façade. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The conversion of the building to the Ames Boston Hotel was completed in 2009.

The lobby is intimate and stylish, with an eclectic chandelier, designed by Rolf Knudsen and made of thousands of reflective mylar discs, suspended on wires over the interior entry way. Above the chandelier is a stunning, domed mosaic ceiling, preserved from the original 19-century architecture. An interesting juxtaposition. The front desk clerk was friendly and efficient, and off to one side of the lobby is the hotel’s King Street Tavern, a pleasant, casual dining venue with long, communal wood tables as well as smaller individual tables situated next to large windows overlooking Court Street. This convenient on-site restaurant serves breakfast and dinner.

The original domed, mosaic tile ceiling from the 1893 Ames Office Building has been preserved in the Ames Boston Hotel lobby. (photo Ron Bernthal)

My third floor accommodations was a wonderfully designed, minimalist “loft” style King bed guest room (there are only four loft-style rooms out of 114 guest rooms and suites), with a huge, eye-brow style window overlooking the street and the Old State House (1713). This particular room has high ceilings, bare oak floors, and an open-configuration with a sitting area and a large comfortable couch separated from the bedroom by a half-wall that held two back-to-back 42” HDTV’s, allowing TV viewing from each area. The room had two great-looking amenities, a Vers model radio/alarm/iPod docking station, and a brushed silver aluminum Pablo Pardo-designed tube LED desk light that sat on a white work desk.

View from loft-style guest room at State and Court Streets, and Boston’s 1713 Old State House (photo Ron Bernthal)

The extra-large bathrooms are one of the hotel’s most popular features. My bathroom was separated from the bedroom by a huge glass window, through which the commode, shower and sink was all quite visible. The property promotes their “infamous sexy showers” on marketing materials, and they are quite nice, with deep-seated marble bathtubs in some of the rooms, and streamlined stainless-steel fixtures. Modest couples, however, should note that the optional sheer curtains that can be drawn over the bathroom window will not conceal much.
The hotel offers free Wi-Fi and, despite its casual “boutique” ambience, provides all the standard property amenities found in larger deluxe hotels, including a 24-hour fitness center, 24-hour business center, concierge services, valet parking, and meeting and event space.

King bed guest room, view from glass-wall shower. (photo Ames Boston Hotel)

Boston has been a leader among U.S. cities where 19th century structures have been successfully converted into downtown luxury hotels. These include a former bank, a jail, a customs house and police headquarters. Several of the city’s current historic hotels were originally built as hotel properties and have been beautifully restored, including the Omni Parker House, which opened in 1855 and is the longest continuously operating hotel in the country.

The Ames Boston Hotel is located on Court Street, in the heart of the city’s financial district and is a short walk to the Government Center, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Beacon Hill, Boston Commons, several subway lines and Amtrak’s South Street Station.


Contact:

Ames Hotel Boston
1 Court Street
Boston, MA 02198
Ph: 617-979-8100
www.amesbostonhotel.com

Row 34 Review: New oyster bar and restaurant near Boston waterfront, Financial District and Convention Center

The Raw Bar at Row 34 (photo courtesy Row 34)

This new restaurant on Congress Street, a few minutes’ walk from Boston’s downtown financial district and the city’s Convention & Exhibition Center, was a perfect place for lunch on a bright winter day.
A much-needed January sun was shining through the two-story windows of a the renovated 1907 brick warehouse when I visited Row 34.

The historic exterior contrasts with the modern, silver and black look of the interior décor. This trendy yet affordable fish and seafood restaurant, a “workingman’s oyster bar” as it calls itself, opened in late November, 2013, with attractive, burnished silver drop-lighting fixtures, a black-topped and silver bar and black tables and chairs, a very clean and streamlined look. Although not quite in the traditional, waterfront “workingman’s” style, the building’s 100 year-old wooden beams, a giant light installation made from older, galvanized steel oyster sorters, and exposed brick do provide nice traditional touches to the modern surroundings.

Row 34 is located within a historic warehouse, in the eclectic Fort Point district of Boston. (photo Ron Bernthal)

The architectural firm of Bentel & Bentel, known for its outstanding, award winning work for several Manhattan restaurants, including The Modern (at MOMA), Craftsteak, and Eleven Madison Park, designed the space.

Immediately after entering through the front door guests can’t help but notice a beautiful, spot-lighted display of fresh oysters and clams sitting on a layer of sparkling ice, with a fast-moving shucker hard at work behind the counter. I am sure I was not the only guest who immediately made a mental note to self: order a half-dozen.

After being seated I looked at the Raw Bar menu and immediately ordered a half-dozen oysters, three Row 34 oysters, and three Island Creeks, local oysters harvested in Duxbury Bay, Massachusetts, by the team that owns Row 34 as well as its sister restaurant, Island Creek Oyster Bar (a slightly higher priced restaurant located in Boston’s upscale Back Bay neighborhood). The name Row 34 comes from the 34th row of cages in the owners’ oyster farm. These cages float near the surface of the bay, allowing the oysters to eat different plankton, and thus influence their distinct flavor and texture. Other varieties of oysters and clams were also available.

The dining room has a casual ambience, a two-story ceiling and large, street-level windows. (photo courtesy Row 34)

The oysters, accompanied with a glass of sauvignon blanc from the French province of Touraine, were great, and the Crispy Fish Sandwich was, indeed, a crispy, nicely cooked Atlantic pollock on a toasted roll. Other lunch menu items included beer battered fish and chips, grilled salmon, lobster roll, and a chilled noodle salad with sesame and shrimp. All appetizing lunch possibilities.

Row 34’s wine selections include a large variety of whites from various world regions that pair nicely with oysters, as well as classical reds, and a selection of sparkling wines. The restaurant also specializes in American and European craft beers, offering 28 bottled brands and 24 different draught beers. The choices run from relatively inexpensive Belgian, German, Canadian and domestic craft beers to pricy Belgian, Italian, Danish and Dutch brews.

If you are walking to Row 34 along Congress Street, be careful not to miss the entrance, as there is no signage yet near the front door of the building, only a small street number – 383. Personally, I hope they never add a restaurant sign to Row 34, no signage forces visitors to keep looking up at all the beautiful 19th century facades on this stretch of Congress Street, in the historic Fort Point neighborhood, an official Landmark District that is being redeveloped into an eclectic mix of art studios, trendy cafes, and small museums. Further down Congress Street the neighborhood moves into the 21st century, with the postmodern Convention & Exhibition Center and the new business-style hotels nearby.

Row 34 is open every night for dinner; Monday-Saturday for lunch; and a midday meal (2:30 pm – 5:00 pm) is also served on weekends. Reservations suggested for busy periods, walk-ins welcome any time. If you visit, note the numbers 7.950 printed in a small circle on the side of the menu. It is not the price of any menu item, if you can’t figure it out (not sure anyone can), ask your server.

Review by Ron Bernthal

Row 34
383 Congress Street
Boston, MA 02210
Phone: 617-553-5900
www.row34.com