Throwback Thursday: When the First Modern Hotel in America Opened in Boston

Indoor plumbing was the height of luxury.

The next time you slip a tiny hotel shampoo into your overnight bag, you can thank Boston.

On October 16, 1829, what many consider to be the first modern hotel in the United States opened on the corner of Tremont and Beacon Streets. Called the Tremont House, the hotel was a site of luxurious firsts: free soap, locked guest rooms, bellboys, a reception area, and perhaps most important of all, indoor plumbing.

The Tremont House, with its ingenious indoor toilets and running water, was designed by architect Isaiah Rogers. The hotel’s opening night—186 years ago on Friday—rang in with a celebratory dinner, graced by the presence of mayor Josiah Quincy. Top Boston gentlemen feasted on roast beef, boiled cod, turkeys, pears and grapes; Historic New England has the evening’s menu in its collections.

The men toasted to travelers, and the father of all travelers, Christopher Columbus. Edward Everett, a member of Congress at the time, was quoted in The Bostonian as saying, “In the erection of this hotel the Bostonians have certainly shown that they think the worshipful company of travellers ought to be as well bestowed as circumstances admit.” In other words, “wealthy men can come here to go all out.”

It hosted the most distinguished visitors to the city until the hotel’s closure in 1894, including Charles Dickens, President Andrew Jackson, President John Tyler, Daniel Webster, and Davy Crockett.

Dickens wrote of the hotel in his North American travelogue, American Notes.

“The hotel (a very excellent one) is called the Tremont House. It has more galleries, colonnades, piazzas, and passages than I can remember, or the reader would believe.”

The Tremont House was razed in 1895 and replaced with an office building. Today, the building at 73 Tremont Street occupies the spot, home to a Citizens Bank and parts of Suffolk University.


Madeline Bilis Associate Editor at Boston Magazine @madelinebilis
mbilis@bostonmagazine.com