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Discover the XV Beacon, built in 1903 and designed by prominent Boston architect William Gibbons Preston.

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XV Beacon, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2016, dates back to 1903.


Listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the XV Beacon has been a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2016. It has also stood as a renowned landmark in downtown Boston for more than a century, its brilliant exterior hailed by countless onlookers as an architectural masterpiece. But while the XV Beacon currently has a venerable reputation within the hospitality industry, it has not always been an elite hotel. Indeed, the XV Beacon was once known as the “Boston Transit Commission Building” many years ago. At the start of the 20th century, a real estate investment firm called the Beacon Hill Trust acquired the site with the intent of developing it into an ornate commercial complex. The area was an incredibly enviable one, as it was located close to Boston Commons and the State House. In fact, a gorgeous, three-story mansion and a series of townhouses resided on the grounds earlier in the 19th century. The district was also undergoing rapid commercialization, prompting the Beacon Hill Trust to create a structure that would appropriately reflect that development. As such, the company sought an accomplished architect to spearhead the project. After reviewing several qualified candidates, the Beacon Hill Trust eventually charged the creation of their new building to William Gibbons Preston. A graduate of the renowned École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Preston had already designed a number of outstanding structures throughout Boston. His most profound work included architectural styles that ranged from Romanesque Revival to Queen Anne. But Preston was especially talented in the Beaux-Arts, as well as the motifs of Neoclassicism. Preston thus turned to both forms when he set about crafting the Beacon Hill Trust’s own building in 1903.

He subsequently designed a magnificent ten-story edifice that quickly dominated the local skyline. Two of its levels featured wonderful cast-iron details that were rich in ornamentation and gilded shielding. Preston also installed a third story that had a limestone band, which supported the upper levels of Roman brick. Inside, the building contained a lavish lobby, as well as space for an upscale restaurant and several storefronts. Perhaps the best element within the interior was the marble staircase that ascended to the office spaces situated further above. When construction finally concluded two years later, it immediately became one of Boston’s most popular places to work. In fact, the building’s first tenant, the Boston Transit Commission, moved in just months after it opened. The commission subsequently presided over many high-profile projects from the structure, specifically the creation of the nation’s first subway system. (The organization had originally been formed from public discontent toward the state of the city’s transportation services.) The presence of the Boston Transit Commission loomed so large within the structure that it soon became synonymous with the building itself! Nevertheless, the Boston Transit Commission eventually vacated the premises following its disbandment after World War I. The Boston School Committee inhabited the structure in its place, which it called home for several decades. But in 1998, a couple hoteliers bought the historic location and initiated a sweeping series of renovations. Taking months to complete, the work ultimately transformed the erstwhile Boston Transit Commission Building into a stunning boutique called the “XV Beacon.” The hotel is now one of Boston’s finest hotels, offering nothing but the best in luxury and hospitality.

  • About the Location +

    The XV Beacon resides along Beacon Street in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. Both roads are among the most heavily traveled throughout the entire city today. Tremont in particular is among the most significant streets in Boston, as it has served as a major thoroughfare since the late 1700s. A number of historic buildings are located along Tremont Street, including Boston Common, Tremont Temple, and King’s Chapel. George Washington actually attended services at King’s Chapel on October 27, 1789, sitting in the coveted Pew No. 30. Abraham Lincoln also lectured at the Tremont Temple in 1863, in which he gave his first public reading of the Emancipation Proclamation before a large crowd. School Street was once the site of the first public school in the United States. Known as the Boston Latin School, it operated from its headquarters on School Street throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. It specifically resided within a historic building called the “Mico Mansion,” which once functioned as the private residence of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ the great-grandfather. School Street is also entirely part of a famous pathway called the Freedom Trail. Stretching for two-and-a-half miles through downtown Boston, the Freedom Trail guides visitors to a series of historic sites that are closely connected to the founding of the nation. Consisting of 16 sites in total, the route takes its guests to such famous locations as the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, and the Bunker Hill Monument. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Beacon Hill itself is one of Boston’s most historic areas. While people first started developing the area as early as 1708, most of its historic buildings appeared at the beginning of the 1800s. Nearly all the structures are a variety of mansions and row houses that display some of the finest examples of Federal-style architecture from the Early Republic. Beacon Hill was historically the home for Boston’s most affluent citizens, too. A community of wealthy African Americans grew along its northern slope, founding prominent local institutions like the African Meeting House. The area became a center for the abolitionist movement, as well as a central stop along the Underground Railroad. As such, this section of Beacon Hill is commemorated today as the Boston African American National Historic Site.

  • About the Architecture +

    Originally developed as an upscale office complex, the XV Beacon shows several magnificent elements of Classic Revival architecture. Also known as “Neoclassical,” Classic Revival design aesthetics are among the most common architectural forms seen throughout the United States. This wonderful architectural style first became popularized at the World’s Columbian Exposition, which was held in Chicago in 1893. Many of the exhibits displayed architectural motifs from ancient societies like Rome and Greece. As with the equally popular Colonial Revival style of the same period, Classical Revival architect found an audience for its more formal nature. It specifically relied on stylistic design elements that incorporated such structural components like the symmetrical placement of doors and windows, as well as a front porch crowned with a classical pediment. Architects would also install a rounded front portico that possessed a balustraded flat roof. Pilasters and other sculptured ornamentations proliferated throughout the façade of the building, as well. Perhaps the most striking feature of buildings designed with Classical Revival-style architecture were massive columns that displayed some combination of Corinthian, Doric, or Ionic capitals. With its Greco-Roman temple-like form, Classical Revival-style architecture was considered most appropriate for municipal buildings like courthouses, libraries, and schools. But the form found its way into more commercial uses over time, such as banks, department stores, and of course, hotels.

    Nevertheless, the XV Beacon also displays architectural motifs inspired by the famous Beaux-Arts movement. Preston himself was accomplished in the use of Beaux-Arts architecture, having graduated from the renowned École des Beaux-Arts many years prior in 1861. Located in the heart of Paris, the École des Beaux-Arts was an art school where the Beaux-Arts first took shape during the 1830s. There was much resistance to the Neoclassism of the day among French artists, who yearned for the intellectual freedom to pursue less rigid design aesthetics. (This is especially ironic given Preston’s later fascination with Neoclassic architecture during his time in Boston.) Four instructors in particular were responsible for establishing the movement: Joseph-Louis Duc, Félix Duban, Henri Labrouste, and Léon Vaudoyer. The training that these instructors created involved fusing architectural elements from several earlier styles, including Imperial Roman, Italian Renaissance, ad Baroque. As such, a typical building created with Beaux-Arts-inspired designs would feature a rusticated first story, followed by several more simplistic ones. A flat roof would then top the structure. Symmetry became the defining character, with every building’s layout featuring such elements as balustrades, pilasters, and cartouches. Sculptures and other carvings were commonplace throughout the design, too. Beaux-Arts only found a receptive audience in France and the United States though, as most other Western architects at the time gravitated toward British design principles.

  • Art Collection +

    Today’s XV Beacon is a luxury boutique hotel conveniently located in historic Beacon Hill. This fantastic desination offers incomparable amenities in lavish accommodations. But XV Beacon is also distinguished by its outstanding art collection, too, which has made it a hidden gem within the Boston art scene. For instance, greeting guests in the lobby is Jules Olitski’s joyful Green Dot canvas. Olitski—a Russian-born post-painterly abstractionist—has been recognized as one of the century’s brightest talents by Architectural Digest magazine. Additional works included in the collection are specially commissioned pieces by portraitist Gilbert Stuart, contemporary abstract painter Maggi Brown, Martha Lloyd, Joe Greene, Tony Evanko, Ben Freeman, and many others, whose talent is on display in guestrooms throughout the hotel. There is even a charming Roman mosaic dating from the fourth to fifth century A.D. in XV Beacon’s Mooo…. restaurant’s The Wine Cellar. This fascinating piece depicts two cavorting deer amidst flowers, amphorae, and fish. Without a doubt, few places in Boston better synthesize culture and hospitality than the XV Beacon.