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Keep on Rockin' at the Verb Hotel

This is the story of how a mid-century motel in Boston was reimagined into an homage to the area's rock 'n' roll heritage

09/01/2015 By Christopher Curtland

hen the Elkus Manfredi Architects team approached a Fenway Motor Hotel, opened in 1959, the design challenge was to rock it from the inside out, literally. The new Verb Hotel seamlessly connects to Boston’s rock ‘n’ roll culture by splashing authentic artwork all over its walls—actual pieces and posters amassed by the newspaper and radio stations based in the neighborhood.

In the 60s and 70s, Boston was the first landing spot for British rock invasion bands like Led Zeppelin and The Who, and later it became a magnet for other major music talent like The Clash and The Ramones. “This was really where they were discovered and embraced,” said Elizabeth O. Lowrey, principal and director of interior architecture at Elkus Manfredi. “There’s a real legacy of music here. It’s the home of provocative, progressive, indie outlets, and we came to appreciate the artistic and graphic elements of the pieces they had.”

The artwork plays into the authenticity of the space and helped the design team tell a story. “We didn’t have to fabricate anything,” Lowrey explained. “Some of the posters came directly from the Boston Phoenix magazine. Employees at the time had ripped them off poles or bar walls, so they actually had staple rips in them.”

But luckily the team didn’t have to rip into any of the structure’s original materiality. Exposed brick in the lobby is uncovered and preserved, and the schoolhouse-style blue brick leading down to the basement was restored.

“The building has great modern bones, so why change that? We needed to love that,” said Lowrey. “We embraced the architecture to make it a contemporary hotel for guests and also the community. It’s a living room for Fenway and an oasis in the urban fabric.”

Adornments that offer a twist of the modern and retro include authentic tickets, backstage passes, handwritten set lists, and original photography. A vintage turntable and bin of 150 vintage album covers offer an immersive, interactive, and intense experience. The space has the effect of a museum.

“We co-curated the space with the other stakeholders, which is really the best way to do it,” Lowrey explained. “There’s a difference between mounting an authentic show—one that’s really legitimate and speaks to whatever story you’re trying to tell—instead of just picking something that’s nice, decorative, or stylistic. That’s why this space feels so rich.”