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How the Renovation of a Former Bank-Turned-Hotel Became a Modern Classic

Dec. 14, 2021
A former Federal Reserve Bank is home to the newly renovated The Langham, Boston hotel, one of the top iconic historic hotels in the country.

The hospitality industry was hit hard in 2020 by the lockdowns resulting from the pandemic. As hotels and restaurants temporarily shuttered, business grinded to a halt—and, unfortunately, many never recovered.  

Others, however, leveraged the unexpected closure to make much-needed updates to their facilities. The Langham Hotel, a nine-story historic landmark in Boston’s Financial District, was among the properties that underwent a top-to-bottom renovation to the exterior and interior, led by architect of record Dyer Brown. 

But that wasn’t the initial plan.  

“The original goal was just simply to do a refresh, and that involved not only the public rooms but also the guest rooms, the corridors upstairs and finishes,” recalled Gabriel Zavala, director at Dyer Brown. 

Then COVID hit. With the hotel closed indefinitely, the owner decided to do a deeper dive into the update and undertook an extensive renovation of the 1922 Beaux Arts-style building and former New England branch of the Federal Reserve Bank. It is the first full renovation of the building since its conversion of the bank into a hotel in 1981.  

“I think it made the decision-making a little easier, even if it hit [the owner’s] pocketbook a little harder,” Zavala said. “Because that additional time allowed us to investigate a much more invasive demolition to incorporate a lot more infrastructure work than was initially anticipated. The ownership now gave us a much greater amount of flexibility to do what was best for the building and for the project.”

[Related: Meet the Historic Building at the Center of Dallas’ West End Revival]

Working with the Boston Landmarks Commission, Dyer Brown made exterior improvements to the facade, including new awnings, ramps, canopies, signage and exterior lighting. The design of the main entrance canopy complemented the building’s Beaux Arts style, drawing inspiration from its original interior design elements. The new lighting design highlights the facade’s grand architectural details, strengthening the building’s presence at night. 

With the help of C3 Engineering’s envelope team, the original granite and limestone masonry was restored through re-pointing deteriorating mortar, resealing windows, repairing the stone cornice and cleaning the masonry. Through working with AKF, Jensen Hughes and 21 additional consultants, Dyer Brown made accessibility, MEP equipment and infrastructure upgrades throughout the building, including a rooftop cooling tower and generator. 

Richmond International oversaw the interior design and curating of the hotel’s art collection, all of which reflect the building’s background as the former Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.  

“On the inside, we took advantage of that nice, two-story tall banking hall, which was the original reception space on the second floor when it was the Federal Reserve, and we turned that into a dining room, exposing a lot of detail that had been hidden over a period of years, including that 1980s transition into a hotel,” Zavala said.  

Custom carpet patterns in the lobby area abstracted from dollar bills, the use of banking desk lamps and faux safety deposit boxes all offer a respectful nod to the building’s past. “If you know the prior history of the building—or even if you don’t—there’s a constant reminder of its former life as a Federal Reserve Bank,” Zavala noted. 

Guests are welcomed by a luxurious new lobby, decorated in jewel tones, with a cozy fireplace, ample seating, and high-design concierge area and check-in desk. The completely redesigned guest rooms and suites feature brand new marble-clad bathrooms, New England-inspired decor and, in the case of the hotel’s signature Loft Suites, two story brass-embossed windows accenting the bi-level living and sleeping quarters left from the hotel’s days as the Federal Reserve.  

The new Lincoln Ballroom, accommodating 175 guests, features natural light by way of a skylight flanked by chandeliers, and windows in its pre-function space overlooking Norman B. Leventhal Park, a city-center greenspace with a garden trellis, which itself is the perfect location for intimate wedding photos.  

For foodies and cocktail aficionados, The Langham, Boston promises to be a destination unto itself. The Fed, a brand-new destination bar, offers an outdoor terrace and a British cocktail pub menu with a New England twist. Grana features an authentic Italian dining experience set in the former grand hall of the bank, with soaring ceilings, ornate chandeliers and velvet banquettes.  

“In the end, the hotel ownership ended up spending a significantly greater amount of money than they would have [initially],” Zavala said. “But it certainly has set them up for success moving forward.”

Read next: Historic San Francisco Building Blends Past and Present with a Modern Addition

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