According to today’s Boston Globe:

The owners of the venerable Ritz-Carlton Boston hotel, temporary home to royalty and the rich on the Public Garden for 79 years, are negotiating to sell to Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, a luxury chain based in India, according to an executive who was briefed on the talks.

Which got me wondering about the origin of the building, and what was there, before it was built.

Here’s what I found:

According to Bainbridge Bunting’s “Houses of Boston’s Back Bay”, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel building, at 15 Arlington Street, was constructed in 1931. The architect of record was Blodget Strickland (who also designed 7 Arlington Street, among others).

The buildings before that, at 13, 14, 15 Arlington Street, were owned by H.H. Williams; the architect was Richard M. Hunt. The building was constructed in 1859.

Says Bunting:

Very few Back Bay houses can be related directly to French prototypes.

“A case in point is the group of three houses that Richard Morris Hunt designed in 1859, within four years of his return from Paris. Erected at 13, 14, and 15 Arlington Street, the site now occupied by the Ritz Hotel, this group is conceived as a free-standing block consisting of a central element three windows wide, flanked by projecting pavilions of two bays’ width. Four stories tall, it was constructed of brownstone and topped by the customary mansard roof.

Despite the unity of the composition, it would never be taken for a Parisian residence. Its vertical organization as a series of row houses rather than as flats and its isolation as a detached building mark it as more Anglo-Saxon that (sic) Gallic. Yet the designer was surely conversant with current Parisian architectural styles and practices, for he had recently received a diploma from the Ecole des Beaux Arts and had worked in Parisian architectural offices.

The differences between French prototype and Back Bay product demonstrates the extent to which an architect was limited by the requirements of the American town house and perhaps also by the force of habit of the building trades of the period.

Nevertheless a comparison between the Arlington Street block and earlier Boston town house designs show that the designer had been able to carry over a good bit of French feeling in the grouping of windows and the use of projecting pavilions. The Hunt houses, which are no more French-influenced than a number of other Back Bay mansions of this time, should dissuade the critic from dismissing the hypothesis of direct Gallic influence in Boston merely on the grounds that its residences have substantial differences of appearance and feeling from construction in France at the time.”

Richard Morris Hunt designed, among others, The Breakers mansion, in Newport, R.I., the Biltmore Estate, in N.C., the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and … the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty!

No, I don’t know what was on the site of the addition, before it was built. I seem to remember it was an empty lot, but have no idea if that’s accurate, or if there was something there at any time between 1931 and 1981.

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Updated: January 2018

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