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In Boston, where jail is “Liberty”

Tonight I saw a most impressive example of adaptive re-use in built form: the former Charles Street Jail, next to MGH (Massachusetts General Hospital) on the banks of the River Charles, turned into a stunning luxury hotel (the Liberty) that looks for all the world like a Jeunesse dorée hotspot.

Here’s a link to the hotel’s website that details the jail’s history and rehabilitation.

Here are a couple of photos:

former panopticon interior, now a lobby


exterior, sunlight-painted


exterior with new hotel wing in background


former cell turned luxe restroom


guest bikes for a quick getaway



What really gets me about a project like this: we can see what imagination and money can do in tandem to preserve heritage, engage adaptive re-use, and promote economic development. When you see what is possible in heritage restoration and then realize that none of those aspects are in evidence in the City of Victoria’s treatment of its historic Johnson Street Bridge, you realize just how unimaginative and benighted some political leadership really is.


  1. Almost two weeks ago, we were in the lobby of the Liberty, enjoying drinks with friends, while outside storm surges wreaked havoc on the picturesque streets of Beacon Hill. At some point, the rain came pouring in the hotel as well, which made me wonder what it must have been like when the building was housing prisoners, rather than luxury guests.

    But yes, adaptive re-use of buildings and structures can be more than just exercises in function. Here in the SF Bay Area, much of the Presidio, that former army complex, is now the campus of Industrial Light and Magic (George Lucas), and Hamilton, another former military “structure” in the North Bay, is now a striving art center.

    Comment by maria — June 18, 2010 #

  2. Oh boy, I didn’t think of that, seeing how solid the granite blocks are. But if rain got in, can you imagine how incredibly cold those cells would have been in the winters? :-/
    Next time I’m in the Bay Area (if that day ever comes!), I’ll have to make sure I get to see the art center.
    In other news: we’ve been incredibly lucky with the weather. I know you had total crap weather, Maria, but it has been gorgeous for us, which is a real bonus. On the other hand, today was the first day that it got really hot and even a bit muggy. Brought back memories, I can tell ya… 😉 There is something to be said for our more temperate West Coast weather.

    Comment by Yule — June 18, 2010 #

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