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Boston's 383-room Fairmont Copley Plaza Celebrates its 100th Year

Following a $20 Million Renovation and Restoration
Maintaining its Historic Details and Ornate Elegance

By Donna Goodison, Boston HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Aug. 15, 2012--Opened Aug. 19, 1912, at a then-extravagant cost of $5.5 million, it has hosted every U.S. president since William Howard Taft.

The Fairmont Copley Plaza -- which marked its debut in Copley Square with a reception hosted by Mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald -- celebrates its 100th year today with a ribbon-cutting by Boston's longest-serving Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

The anniversary follows a $20 million renovation and restoration of the 383-room hotel that's maintained its ornate elegance, updated its guest rooms and restaurant, and uncovered historic details -- from the original mosaic tile floor in the "Peacock Alley" hallway to tracks of the former Merry-Go-Round Bar.

The public celebration includes free tours of the hotel starting Sunday and a return of afternoon tea today, tomorrow and Sunday.

"The hotel holds so many fond memories for so many Bostonians," spokeswoman Suzanne Wenz said. "Whether it's a first date, a wedding, an anniversary celebration ... people have a connection with the Copley Plaza. That connection -- as much as our 100 years in the community -- is certainly worth celebrating."

Beacon Hill resident Jane Walsh, who donated hotel memorabilia to mark the centennial, plans to attend today's festivities. As a child, she and her brother visited the hotel in the 1930s and 1940s to see their father, an assistant manager who worked there from 1918 on into the 1940s.

"It was a great, wonderful experience, because the hotel was so beautiful, and we'd go in the Oval Room and have ice cream and petit fours with a host of waiters standing around," Walsh said. "Then we'd sometimes go on the Merry-Go-Round, which was absolutely marvelous. No one had seen anything like it in the city before. The bartender would make us a little ginger ale cocktail with a bunch of fruit in it. We were just so thrilled to be in there."

Walsh's father assembled quite a collection of autographs and autographed photos during his hotel tenure -- from actor Rudolph Valentino, painter John Singer Sargent, aviator Charles Lindbergh, entertainers George M. Cohan and Al Jolson, figure skater and film star Sonja Henie and President Theodore Roosevelt. "Anybody who was a celebrity of any kind, of course, stayed at the Copley Plaza in those days," Walsh said.

The $20 million facelift of the FelCor Lodging Trust-owned hotel included more contemporary guest rooms with Keurig coffee machines, Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, headboard reading lights and bed throws with the "double P" logo shared with its sister New York property, the Plaza Hotel.

There's a new 3,000-square-foot rooftop health club with outdoor deck, while the former Oak Room and Oak Bar is now the more expansive and bright Oak Long Bar & Kitchen. Actual oak, an 83-foot copper bar and wood-burning oven were added, while the original ship's prow detailing, early 20th-century oil paintings and Baroque plasterwork remain.

For Walsh, the hotel's elegance brings back memories of her father.

"I can still see him walking in the lobby, all dressed up in a tuxedo with a white carnation in his buttonhole," she said. "He was always smiling, and he would be smiling now if he was here for the celebration."


(c)2012 the Boston Herald

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