Nobody Asked Me, But... No. 148;
Hotel History: The Kendall Hotel (1894), Cambridge, Massachusetts*
By Stanley Turkel, CMHS
The Kendall Hotel at the Engine No. 7 firehouse is the only hotel in Cambridge to be designated a Historic Hotel of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 1894, the Engine No. 7 firehouse was erected to serve the rapidly-growing Kendall Square area. It was designed by architects R.J. Fitzgerald and S.D. Mitchell in Queen Anne-style to accommodate stables with a permanent team of horses, coal bunkers to fuel the new steam pumpers, maintenance facilities, and dormitories for the firemen complete with brass poles for quick exits. Engine Company No. 7 served Kendall Square for nearly a century as the neighborhood around it changed dramatically. In 1912, the subway system was built connecting Cambridge to Boston. A few years later, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology moved to its present location. Following World War II, many of Kendall Square's manufacturing firms relocated, leaving abandoned buildings and factories behind them.
In 1993, when it closed its doors, the building was at risk of demolition until it was acquired by Gerald Fandetti and Charlotte Forsythe for conversion into a boutique hotel. They had previously converted an abandoned nursing home into the Mary Prentiss Inn, a lovely historic inn serving Harvard Square. The new project was a major undertaking that included moving the three-story structure closer to the street and the construction of a seven-story addition attached to the original building. The renovation and addition succeeded in maintaining the building's authenticity while creating a 21st century facility.
In their book Serving Engine 7, the developers report,
Special care went into the restoration of the building's cupolas, both of which were part of the firehouse's original architecture. The smaller cupola had been used to vent the building's roof while the larger one was once used to house the fire hoses as they dried. Both had fallen into ruin over the years. Fandetti designed and built an exact replica of the smaller cupola. The larger one was rebuilt and installed by Fandetti's brother, Jack.
The original Victorian firehouse is now home to The Black Sheep, the hotel's restaurant, and is full of firehouse memorabilia. Eleven of the hotel's guest rooms are also located here in what was once the firemen's dormitory. The newly constructed seven-story tower houses meeting space and additional guest rooms.
Charlotte Forsythe decorated each guest room with antique furnishings, inspired by the Victorian décor of 1893. Over the years, Forsythe carefully selected and commissioned artists to create original pieces of art, which are displayed throughout the hotel.
In 2007, the Kendall expanded once more, with the addition of a brand new seven-story tower including eight deluxe guest rooms; four one-bedroom suites featuring kitchens, fireplaces, and Jacuzzi tubs; and a rooftop retreat that includes an atrium and stunning views of the Boston skyline.
The hotel's owners were honored by the Cambridge Historical Commission for their efforts conserving and protecting the city's architecture.
*excerpted from my book Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (AuthorHouse 2013)
About Stanley Turkel, CMHS
Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2014 and 2015 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion, greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.
Stanley Turkel is one of the most widely-published authors in the hospitality field. Two of his hotel books have been promoted, distributed and sold by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry and Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi). A third hotel book (Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York) was called "passionate and informative" by The New York Times. His fourth hotel book was described by The New York Times: "Nostalgia for the City's caravansaries will be kindled by Stanley Turkel's...fact-filled...Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt and Oscar of the Waldorf."
Built to Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi is available for purchase from the publisher by visiting bookstore.authorhouse.com.