When it first opened its doors in 1900, the “Original Boutique Hotel,” as it is known, became a glamorous playground for Boston’s social, political, cultural and entertainment elite. Judy Garland, Duke Ellington, Babe Ruth – their presence still lingers in the hotel’s vibrant spirit.
By Elena Barbera
The gold standard of hospitality.
By its very definition, the term “hospitality” implies generosity, warmth and genuine caring for the wellbeing of guests. In theory, every hotel should be a fountainhead of welcoming gestures. But in reality, few in Boston personify the essence of hospitality as well as the Lenox.
From the moment I approached the entrance, I was greeted like an old familiar friend. Simultaneously respectful and warm, the dignified doormen were my first introduction to the Lenox’s sterling reputation for service. In spite of their constant comings and goings, hotels can be lonely places for travelers. But at the corner of Boylston and Exeter streets, it feels as if every employee is saying, “I’m so happy you’re here.” From the valets to the housekeepers, the employees share an uncommon gift for making guests feel immediately at home, part of a long-standing company culture whose legacy is protected by Vice President and Managing Director Dan Donahue.
The staff at the Lenox seem to exist to serve guests’ every need with a smile. But it’s not just the guests they cater to – in an inexplicable way, it’s as if they’re serving the building itself. This hotel feels like a living, breathing being with a soul of its own, with the power to steal attention like a haunting melody, or a beautiful woman. Slow your pace long enough to absorb the hotel’s character and it’s easy to become enchanted by its charms.
Running like clockwork.
The smooth operations at The Lenox are no small feat. Keeping the 214-room property in pristine condition, managing the various branches of staff, executing virtually nonstop special events and attending to guest requests with speed and efficiency are akin to conducting a world-class symphony. Dan Donahue finesses the operation’s many moving parts with seemingly effortless direction.
At any given moment, Donahue can be spotted gliding through the lobby, setting a high standard for guest service with his own impeccable eye for detail and passion for making guests feel at home. Whether he’s in a moment of friendly banter with a regular visitor, engaging in a quick problem-solving session with the concierge, or just taking in the well-orchestrated motions of the lobby staff,
Donahue leads by example. He passes credit for the hotel’s continued success to his staff, pointing out that without their approachability, friendliness and commitment to being helpful, the hotel would not consistently earn the affection and repeat loyalty of the guests. And earn it they do.
My first conversation with an employee was with the front desk attendant, who was genuinely happy to help me check in. Despite the bustling tempo of the lobby at the moment, she seemed to have all the time in the world for my companion and me. Two staff members took a moment to wish us “a good time at the game.” I can’t recall previously mentioning our plans to take in a hockey game, but it’s this kind of attention to detail that creates an authentically warm bond between guests and the people of the Lenox. If you happen to have your evening plans cancelled by a blizzard, as did we, enjoy the alternative – a night by an in-suite wood-burning fireplace, happily dueling over a game of Monopoly borrowed from the front desk.
Body and soul, the Lenox is worthy of admiration. The lobby, with its ornate woodworking, details and artwork is splendid without being garish. The sound of big band jazz is a nice complement to the hotel’s signature green tea and lemongrass scent, which is infused into common areas via airways (but never into guest rooms.) At noon the lobby’s bright lights are dimmed, marking its daily transformation from rejuvenating morning hub into graceful city escape.
Throughout the building, the enchanting décor is a perfect mix of late 19th century riche and 21st century streamlined elegance. The postal chute that rises alongside the elevator shaft is a friendly reminder of antiquated conveniences long forgotten by modern architectural design. While it still functions as a novel way for guests to drop their mail from every floor, the hotel’s complimentary wifi carries the majority of guest communications. If you’re up for it, skip the elevator and take the beautifully appointed stairs for another glimpse
of understated grandeur.
In our room, the feminine comforts of the luxurious bedding and cozy sofa were balanced by masculine touches in the form of impressive light fixtures and an ample workstation. As expected, we were left wanting for nothing. With plush bathrobes, soothing Kiehl’s body care products and a 24-hour in-room dining menu, there’s every reason to simply indulge in the comfort and solitude
Although the property has preserved so many of its original features, it’s no stranger to progress. The Lenox was the first hotel in the world to offer guests the option of using towels and sheets more than once in an effort to conserve water and energy. The program has since been copied and instituted in hotels around the world. Let’s not forget the eleventh floor, a dedicated hypo-allergenic space complete with purified air.
Thanks to the careful stewardship of the Saunders Hotel Group, who has owned and operated the hotel for over fifty years, the Lenox continually defies its age. A recent $40 million investment in restoration and improvements brings a sense of newness to every corner without diminishing the hotel’s historic beauty. Through their innovative leadership, hoteliers Roger, along with sons Gary and Jeffrey Saunders, (all of whom at one time have been General Manager of the Lenox) set the stage for a long future at the hotel.
Back in the lobby, three excellent choices for dining and drinking make the Lenox a regular meeting spot for locals and social sets of all ages. The common ground found between the twenty-somethings and the established dignitaries that frequent the Lenox is their taste for class and finery that isn’t drowned in snobby pretense. In-house options City Table, City Bar and the Irish pub Sólás have inventive bar menus and extensive meal choices (including options for your gluten free friends.) Infused with the same flair for hospitable entertaining as the hotel, they each have a unique personality and serve as unpretentious yet stylish getaways after a fast-paced day in the city.
Step out or hide out.
Whether you’re indulging in a Newbury Street shopping spree, falling in love, or seek an inspiring setting for writing your breakout novel, the Lenox is just right. Step in and feel the rush of metropolis dissolve behind you, and be brought back in time to a place where warmth, beauty, and true hospitality are paramount. ♞