It opened in 1912 on St. James Avenue and defines the south side of Copley Square. Mayor of Boston John F. Fitzgerald (President Kennedy's grandfather) presided over a reception of over 1,000 national dignitaries, civic leaders, captains of industry, and stage and movie stars.
The Copley Plaza's opening was so popular and anticipated that rooms had been booked as early as 16 months in advance. The total cost to open the hotel was an extravagant sum of $5.5 million, and as one newspaper noted, "The opening presented to Boston one of the most colorful and brilliant pictures the city has ever seen. It marked a new era in hotel-keeping, not only in Boston, but in the entire country."
The Copley Plaza was built on the original site of the Museum of Fine Arts. Named in honor of John Singleton Copley, the American painter, it stands with the Boston Public Library, Trinity Church, and Old South Church as one of the architectural landmarks of the Copley Square. The hotel's architect was Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, who also designed other famous hotels, including the Willard Hotel in Washington D.C. and the Plaza Hotel in New York City, the Copley Plaza's sister hotel.
Though many decades have passed since The Plaza and the Copley Plaza opened, today's visitors would have an experience very similar to visitors in 1912. Much of the classical architecture and decor have been preserved, including the famous back-to-back "P" monogram that appears throughout both hotels today.
In 1979, a fire broke out at the Copley Plaza Hotel, in which media mogul Sumner Redstone survived by hanging from a third-story window. His hand was partially paralyzed from the fire. Film director Rob Cohen was also caught in and rescued from the same fire. Frederick Kerry (born Fritz Kohn), the paternal grandfather of John Kerry, committed suicide with a gunshot to the head in the restroom of this hotel in 1921.
The Copley Plaza is also recognized as an innovator in the hotel industry. The hotel is known for these industry firsts: the first hotel completely air-conditioned hotel in Boston, the first hotel with an international reservations system, and the first to accept credit cards.
Since its early days, the Copley Plaza Hotel has been host to many famous citizens. Every U.S. President since William Howard Taft has visited the hotel. Royalty from Greece, Thailand, Abyssinia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Belgium, Denmark, and England have visited the hotel. Celebrities including Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, Dorothy Lewis, Frank Sinatra, and Luciano Pavarotti have also been guests. In addition, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton chose the Copley Plaza for their second honeymoon.
The entrance hallway has been called Peacock Alley since the 1920s because of the ongoing parade of the elegantly dressed Bostonians strolling past to attend Tea Dances and social events. The lobby has a high gilded coffered ceiling with matching Empire style crystal chandeliers and Italian marble columns.
Burnished and Still a Beauty, Fairmont Copley Plaza Turns 100 ; $20 Million Renovation and Restoration Keeps an Icon on Its Luxurious Pedestal; Check In
Dec 23, 2012; The Fairmont Copley Plaza, Back Bay's grande dame hotel, celebrated its centennial this year with a $20 million restoration. But...