What is “cool?”
While “cool” can be difficult to define, “not cool” is easy to define: trying to be “cool” is not cool.
The Verb Hotel in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood is “cool” because it’s not trying to be, it’s just sharing an incredibly cool story while adding new chapters to it.
The year is 1959 and the modernist, two-story Fenway Motor Lodge opens at 1271 Boylston Street, shouting distance from Fenway Park’s right-field wall. Rock ‘n roll hasn’t hit its stride yet, but it’s coming.
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The Beatles would dominate radio in 1964. The Rolling Stones first entered the Billboard charts that same year. Roy Orbison, the Beach Boys, Chubby Checker and Ray Charles were beginning to displace Dean Martin, Skeeter Davis, Johnny Horton and Lawrence Welk.
Against this backdrop—and the sweeping societal changes taking place in America—a weekly alternative newspaper, The Phoenix, is founded in 1965. It would become The Boston Phoenix in 1972 and cover the city’s underground, underbelly and underreported arts scene with an emphasis on the rock music emanating from the Boston’s numerous clubs.
This is, after all, the city that launched Aerosmith, the Pixies, James Taylor, Donna Summer, The Cars, Joan Baez, New Edition and Boston (we’ll forgive it New Kids on the Block).
Because music is better heard than read about, a radio station dedicated to these artists, WBCN, takes to the FM airwaves in 1968. Playing the likes of Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Who and the countless iconic rock acts bursting on the scene in the 70s and 80s, WBCN, The Rock of Boston, became one of the most influential and successful music radio stations in America.
An undated May concert calendar on display inside the Verb Hotel’s lobby with shows promoted by WBCN at a local venue, The Boston Tea Party, lists Jeff Beck, The Who, Joe Cocker, Led Zeppelin and The Velvet Underground.
The station “broke” a little band you may have heard of to music fans in the States: U2.
WBCN would be followed by an equally influential alternative rock station, WFNX, owned by the same company as The Boston Phoenix, in 1983. WFNX would be the first to play Nirvana’s Nevermind album and in 1994, hosted a concert by Green Day that was attended by over 50,000 people.
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These are the stories being shared and kept alive at the Verb Hotel.
Kept alive because WBCN went off the air 2009. WFNX followed in 2012. The Boston Phoenix ceased publication in 2013.
Recession, corporate consolidation, the wane of rock ‘n roll from popular culture—these factors and more contributed to the downfall of the once-iconic brands.
Thankfully, the Verb Hotel opened in 2015 with Boston rock historian, archivist and curator David Bieber in tow to fulfill the property’s mission of embracing the city’s hard-rocking past. Bieber was a long time employee at both WBCN and The Boston Phoenix. He lived the stories the Verb now shares.
He was also a pack rat who could see the value of the music history Boston faced losing. To prevent that, he amassed 600,000 pieces of ephemera and memorabilia from the radio stations and newspaper as they left their offices.
Morsels of that collection—the Verb Archives—now decorate the property’s lobby and hallways. Concert posters, album covers, autographs, ticket stubs, guitars and amps punch up the ambiance of the mid-century mod property, making guests wish check-in took longer.
The Verb Hotel turns the musical inspiration up to 11 with the placement of a record player and albums—old school, big discs—in each guest room. There’s also a property-wide album checkout with more choices to suit your fancy. Van Morrison, Journey, TLC, Mötley Crüe, Emmylou Harris, Michael Jackson, something for everyone.
What’s not cool is the Verb Hotel’s heated pool. It’s warm, essential for chilly New England. The atmosphere, however, brings a touch of Palm Springs to Beantown and it’s close enough to Fenway you can hear the crack of the bat.
You must leave the hotel though because this is one of the best neighborhoods in America and aside from Major League Baseball’s oldest park, you’ll find two of the country’s top art museums within easy walking distance—the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Inside the 401 Park development is a Time Out Market, one of just four in the U.S. (New York, Chicago, Miami). Time Out Market launched in 2014 in Lisbon, Portugal, taking the restaurant recommendations of the foodie editorial staff at Time Out magazine and bringing the best together in one place. Vendors compete to get in, editors invite their favorites, and everybody’s spot is continually on the line to assure the best experience for guests.
Outside 401 Park is a new installation from superstar contemporary artists Nicole Eisenman. Right next to it is a taproom from local favorite Trillium Brewing Company.
Stroll along the Fredrick Law Olmstead-designed Emerald Necklace greenspace which winds through the area. Stop at Eventide for a lobster roll and Narragansett draft. Enjoy both ice cold.
Natálie hits the spot for upscale wine and appetizers in a social atmosphere. So does Tasty Burger, where late night revelers from the ballpark, clubs and rock shows gather to retell their favorite stories.
Just like the Verb Hotel.