HYSTORY OF RITZ-CARLTON HOTELS
In 1927, Edward N. Wyner, a local Boston real estate developer, was asked by Mayor Curley to build a world-class hotel. Wyner, who was constructing an apartment building and was up to the second floor at the time, agreed and changed the apartment building into a hotel. Because of the reputation of Ritz in Europe and the cosmopolitan society in Boston, Wyner knew The Ritz-Carlton name would secure immediate success. He received permission from The Ritz-Carlton Investing Company and The Ritz Paris’ for use of the name and set out to create luxury in the heart of Boston. The Ritz-Carlton, Boston opened on May 19, 1927 with a room rate of $15.
In the tradition of Cesar Ritz, Wyner was meticulous about maintaining the privacy of his guests; a policy strictly adhered to today in all Ritz-Carlton hotels. And thus, the elite were drawn to his hotel. However, he was also very aware of the role and reputation the hotel had in the community: during the Depression Wyner kept the lights on in vacant hotel rooms to portray an aura of success.
The Ritz-Carlton, Boston was regarded as a private club for the very wealthy. Up until the 1960s, the hotel was very formal. Guests were regularly checked to see if they were in the Social Register or Who’s Who and the hotel sometimes went so far as to examine the quality of writing paper on which the guests wrote to the hotel requesting reservations (if it wasn’t of high enough quality, they were refused).
Dress codes were enforced for all guests, in great part due to the formality of Boston society. Restaurants were also very stringent with regard to whom they admitted. Women were not allowed to lunch alone in The Café. Unescorted women were not allowed to enter The Ritz Bar until 1970.
Cuisine in the hotel restaurants was created in the hallowed tradition of Cesar Ritz’s partner Auguste Escoffier. The cuisine at The Ritz-Carlton has always been classic but never boring, innovative but never trendy. The popular entree Lobster au Whiskey was served on the hotel’s opening night in 1927 and remains a favorite dinner item today.
The combination of cuisine and atmosphere ensured the restaurants were “the place” to swing, previewing such musical greats as Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey. The Roof closed in 1944, but was reopened to great success in the summer of 1995. Today, guests can enjoy gourmet dining and dancing under the stars to a live big band.
More plays were written or reworked at the Boston hotel than anywhere else in the United States. Richard Rodgers composed “Ten Cents a Dance” on a piano in a Ritz-Carlton suite, Oscar Hammerstein wrote the lyrics to “Edelweiss” in the shower during an overnight stay and Tennessee Williams wrote part of “A Streetcar Named Desire” while a guest at the hotel. In addition to hosting numerous famous personalities, the hotel also entertained an extraordinary number of animals including: Rin Tin Tin, Morris the Cat and Louis the Swan (the central character in E.B. White’s classic children’s book “The Trumpet of the Swan”).
The hotel maintained its own upholstery and print shops and even had a craftsman in-house whose sole job was to paint the gold stripes on the hotel’s furniture. As a result of this convenience, the hotel often catered to the whims of important guests. A suite for Joan Crawford was decorated with peppermint Lifesavers because it was her favorite candy and the guest room furniture in Winston Churchill’s room was reupholstered in red, his favorite color.
Edward Wyner died in 1961. The land developers Cabot, Cabot & Forbes and their chairman and major shareholder, Gerald W. Blakely, owned and managed the hotel. However, the Ritz legacy endured with Charles Ritz, son of Cesar Ritz, who was an active board member of The Ritz-Carlton until his death in 1977. In 1983, Blakely sold the hotel and the rights to The Ritz-Carlton name to William B. Johnson, who established The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.