Get a Peek at Oak Long Bar + Kitchen's Storied, Century-Long History

Check out the space’s gentlemen’s club, Merry-Go-Round bar, and old-school menu items in the images ahead.

By | Chowder |

Julia Child isn’t the only one with a 100th birthday celebration this week—this Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of the Fairmont Copley Hotel, a Back Bay institution that’s contained a restaurant since it opened back in 1912. Of course, times change, and so has the space in the hotel that’s been offering dinner (and copious martinis) to Bostonians for a century (it was known as Copley Cafe from 1912-1934, the Merry-Go-Round Bar from 1934-1978, the Plaza Bar & Dining Room from 1978-1996, and The Oak Room from 1996-2011). The most recent iteration of the space, Oak Long Bar + Kitchen, just opened earlier this month. Ahead, we’ve got a look at the space’s past (and present) in honor of their special birthday.


Above, the main hotel kitchen (and staff) in 1912 (which also served the Copley Cafe). Note the abundance of gravy boats and metal cloches (and that tiny chef’s jacket!!).

The original Copley Cafe in 1912. Some of the same elements of the space, like the coffered ceilings, plaster details, and the marble slabs in the wall, are still in the space.

A closer look at the ceiling tiles, which have been in the space for a century.

The bar space of the hotel in 1912 (Oak Long Bar is the first time that the dining room and bar have been attached as one large space) was a men-only gentleman’s club.

In the 1930′s, the bar moved into the dining room side of the hotel, and was known as “The Merry Go-Round Bar,” complete with a spinning table (that took 13 minutes to make a revolution) and a tented top. The new Oak Long Bar space pays homage to this, with the original curved metal inlay in the flooring to indicate where the round bar once stood.

A look at the covers for some of the original menus (see interiors below).

A look at one of the old Merry-Go-Round bar menus from the 1930s (see the PDF here: Merry-Go-Round Bar Menu). Highlights: tutti frutti ice cream with spun sugar, $0.50; imported foie gras terrine, $1.25; broiled deviled pigs feet with apple fritters (!!), $0.90. The most expensive item? Sirloin steak for two, which rang in at a cool $4.00.


Above, a menu scan from 1945 (PDF here: Menu from 1945). The dishes just keep getting better (as well as the layout, gotta love those mustache-like designs). Highlights: crisp golden brown waffle with a ramekin of Chicken a la King, $1.45; fresh peach tartelette, $0.25.

In 1942 during World War II, like the rest of the city, butter “service” was suspended after 11 a.m. due to rationing.

And here we are in present day! The brand-new Oak Long Bar + Kitchen space (part of a stagger 20 million dollar renovation to the hotel), which opened earlier this month, has a mix of original details (mentioned above) plus new custom seating, floors, and curtains (which are supposed to reference old Massachusetts colonial militia uniforms).

You can celebrate the hotel’s centennial starting this Sunday with historical tours, memorabilia displays (the old menus above will be on view in the lobby) and more.

In the meantime, we’ll be trying to convince some local chefs to add deviled pigs feet with apple fritters to their menu.

Special thanks to Suzanne Wenz of The Fairmont Copley for the images and research.

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