19th-Century Jail becomes 21st-Century Hotel

March 3, 2009

Going directly to jail doesn’t sound like a treat – unless you’re headed for Boston’s former Charles Street Jail. These days, the 1851-vintage building enjoys a new life as the four-star Liberty Hotel.

The facility’s public spaces and guestrooms are housed in the historic former jail, and a new, 16-story Ironspot brick and glass tower contains an additional 280 rooms. Embracing the building’s history, keeping elements of the jail visible, and changing the mood from forbidding to inviting were important project considerations.

The adaptive reuse of the building offered the opportunity of a lifetime, but one that came with a host of challenges. Conceiving the lighting and control systems for the jail and the new tower was “like designing systems for two different projects on a very tight urban site,” according to Jim Puopolo, senior construction administrator, Cambridge Seven Associates.

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