Liberty Hotel

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Liberty Hotel
© Elan Fleisher

The cells in the new Liberty Hotel, by the Charles River near Beacon Hill, have an altogether less tranquil history than the guesthouse; drunks and assorted villains were once locked up in the tiny cubicles in what is now the bar. Built in 1851, the Charles Street Jail was a model prison for the times - but by the 1970s, the facility was outmoded and in disrepair, known for its dire conditions. A district court ruled that the jail violated prisoners' constitutional rights, and it finally closed in 1990. Needless to say, there's no trace of its former squalor. For its conversion into a luxury hotel, some $120 million was pumped into renovations and the construction of an adjacent 16-story wing, which contains most of the 300 guest rooms. As the jail is a National Historic Landmark, the refurbishment has preserved the cruciform-shaped building's original features. The airy 90-foot central rotunda, which houses the main lobby, is topped by a cupola that was formerly covered over, and magnificent, original floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the landscaped patio. The catwalks that link the jail's public spaces were also kept, along with the cells in one of three bars that throw a playful look at the building's past (Alibi, Clink, and Scampo). Rooms are more comfortable than cutting edge, with pale, neutral decor, mahogany furniture and handmade patchwork throws. Luxuries abound, from plush bed linen and Molton Brown toiletries to flatscreen HD-LCD TVs, wireless internet and VoIP telephones. What will you choose - quiet reflection in an urban retreat, or doing time in the bar?

Venue name: Liberty Hotel
Address: 215 Charles Street
MA 02114
Cross street: at Cambridge Street
Transport: Red line to Charles/MGH
Price: Rates $286-$685 double.
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