Throwback Thursday: When the Fairmont Copley Plaza Had a Merry-Go-Round Bar

It twirled guests on the hour from 1934 to 1978.

Before you could order food and drinks made with honey harvested from the rooftop at the Fairmont Copley Plaza’s Oak Long Bar + Kitchen, you could peruse the menu in a room that almost felt like it was spinning—even without taking a sip of your cocktail.

For more than 40 years, there was an operating carousel bar in the Copley Plaza’s dining establishment. Called the Merry-Go-Round Bar, the whimsical watering hole off of the hotel’s lobby operated from 1934 to 1978. It opened shortly after Prohibition was repealed, much to the delight of Joseph B. Ely, Massachusetts’ governor at the time. A supporter of the 21st amendment, Ely, along with then senator David I. Walsh, celebrated the opening of the Merry-Go-Round Bar with a couple of martinis.

In the years to follow, customers would happily pull up a seat on the merry-go-round, which made a full rotation every hour. In Drinking Boston: A History of the City and Its Spirits, author Stephanie Schorow notes the bar was a popular theme for postcards (like the one pictured above).

“I found one postmarked in 1942: ‘Dear Mom and Dad, I’m on the Merry-Go-Round but not getting too dizzy,'” she writes.

When the Merry-Go-Round Bar closed in 1978, the carnival ride went with it. The Plaza Bar & Dining Room operated in the space until 1996, followed by the Oak Room and Oak Bar. Oak Long Bar + Kitchen opened in 2012. Today, all that remains of the merry-go-round are those post cards, a few old photos, and a clue on the floor. If you look closely at the ground in today’s Oak Long Bar + Kitchen, you’ll see an imprint showing where the carousel once spun.

“When we were renovating Oak in 2012 we found the original track under the floor, so rather than just covering it up we inlaid copper in the floor as an homage to the merry-go-round,” says Suzanne Wenz, Fairmont’s regional director of communications. “You can see it today near the hostess stand.”

merry go round bar boston

Photo courtesy of the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel