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Copley redo marks 100-year anniversary

Posted by Paul Kandarian  August 15, 2012 12:20 PM

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The last time I was in the Oak Room at the old Copley Plaza in Boston, a glorious haze of cigar smoke hung from the giant ceiling. So when I walked into the Fairmont Copley Plaza in late July, the new look took me by surprise, and most pleasantly since no matter how romantic the image of a smoky Boston bar may be, it just stinks and isn't healthy.

The Fairmont Copley just finished a $20 million renovation, in celebration of the historic building's 100th anniversary. The renovation included all 383 guestrooms, suites and the Fairmont Gold Lounge, and also the introduction of eight themed suites, which hotel officials call "Mini museums," each celebrating one of the city's iconic institutions, such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Pops, The Freedom Trail and the JFK Library and Museum.

Most noticeable are the public areas, including the lobby lounge, the walls of which are graced with signed lithographs by Matisse, Picasso and Chagall. Catie Copley, the hotel's canine ambassador, has a new custom-made dog bed as part of the renovation, and adjacent to the lobby, in Peacock Alley, the original hand-laid mosaic tile floor from 1912 was restored. Also new is the hotel's rooftop health club, some 3,000-square-feet in size, with TechnoGym gear, floor-to-ceiling windows affording Back Bay views and an outdoor deck.

And that old smoky room is now the OAK Long Bar + Kitchen, a neoclassical space with vaulted ceilings, original beaux arts plaster and restored copper mullions which contrast a lighter, more contemporary cerused oak palette - which officials said is the first real oak to actually be brought into the space. Fireplaces sit alongside a state-of-the-art wine room and tufted leather bar stools sit next to a most impressive, 83-foot copper-topped bar. 

oak long bar.jpgThe 100-year-old space has been many things over the years - The Oak Room and Oak Bar most recently, and also Plaza Bar & Dining Room, Merry-Go-Round Bar and Copley Cafe - and was redesigned into its current iteration by designers Dayna Lee and Ted Berner of Powerstrip Studio in Hollywood. There is also a seasonal patio, with bistro tables custom made in France, with rattan seating under umbrellas, and lantern lit at night. For more information, visit www.oaklongbarkitchen.com


All that luscious dark moodiness is now light and airy thanks to 17-foot Palladian windows and original stained glass, and the menu reflects that new lightness, said Suzanne Wenz, director of public relations. The old menu here was meaty, literally, heavy on steaks and such. The modern American menu is now much lighter, with a wide range of seasonal, locally sourced food, she said, heirloom ingredients from regional farms. The day I visited we had a whopping charcuterie platter with tasty meats including prosciutto and porchetta, regional cheeses and Copley-brined olives, and I ordered a Kobe American burger, sans bun, that was simply the best ever. The kitchen is run by Chef Stefan Jarausch, a native German, who once cooked at the Ritz-Carlton Boston.

The hotel, which opened on Aug. 19, 1912 with Mayor John F. Fitzgerald presiding over a reception, is known for industry firsts: The first completely air conditioned hotel in the city, the first hotel with an international reservations system and the first to accept credit cards. It was built on the original site of the Museum of Fine Arts and named for painter John Singleton Copley at a cost of $5.5 million.

For reservations and information on special events marking the hotel's 100-year anniversary, visit www.fairmont.com/copleyplaza or call 800-441-1414.

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