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The Charms of Beacon Hill

History

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Posted by Max Grinnell, guest blogger of The Urbanologist

To wander through Beacon Hill is to experience a bit of the European flavor of Boston in the best way possible. A stroll down Pinckney Street will reveal fine manses in myriad styles, while a walk along Charles Street leads past lovely boutiques, antique stores, and into conversations about local matters in tiny cafes and well-stocked wine stores.

To spend a few hours in the nabe is great, but why not slow down a bit and stay overnight? Wander around and the conversations you have will lead you to other intriguing and unique experiences throughout the area.

A Boutique on Beacon

To stay in style on Beacon Hill is perhaps the best way to experience a day or two around these tony precincts. XV Beacon is the ideal place to inhabit during a visit as their friendly staff and knowledgeable concierges can orient you to all that is most unique about the area.

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Photo: XV Beacon as seen from the street

With their stylish lobby that is reminiscent of 1920s Parisian Art Deco with modern touches, it’s the perfect introduction to all that they do there. Visitors will appreciate the silver tones interspersed with a variety of elegant couches, animal print rugs that keep things chic, and a fireplace that is quite attractive even when the mercury rises just outside during summer months.

XV Beacon Lobby

Photo: Inside the lobby at the XV Beacon

After checking in, you’ll make your way up to your room. The lodgings here feature gas fireplaces in every room (romantic, no?), cashmere throws, gorgeous Italian marble bathrooms, and linens that would satisfy even the ficklest English lord of the manor. Each room also contains a private bar, an overnight complimentary shoe shine, and the accommodations are also pet-friendly, including turndown water for your furry companion.

XV Beacon Comfy Digs

Photo: Comfy digs at the XV Beacon

In terms of the extra amenities, XV Beacon also offers complimentary in-town Lexus courtesy service, iPad rentals, 24-hour valet laundry, daily ice delivery, and dog sitting and walking for a fee. Also, if by some curious chance you tire of your room, you can also make your way to the rooftop anytime of year to look out onto Boston Common and beyond.

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Photo: View from the XV Beacon rooftop during autumn

It’s quite an experience and it’s worth noting that you’re staying right next to the Bellevue apartment building, which was John F. Kennedy’s residence in Boston during his time as the Eight District Congressmen in the late 1940s.

On Mount Vernon Street, A Home By Bulfinch

If you take a ten-minute walk from XV Beacon over to Mount Vernon Street, you’ll be able to tour the Nichols House Museum, which was designed by celebrated architect Charles Bulfinch. He is well known for his work on the U.S. Capitol and a cornucopia of residential buildings throughout Boston. The Nichols House was built for Jonathan Mason in 1804 and the last permanent resident here was Rose Standish Nichols, the noted landscape designer, author, and one of the founders of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

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Photo: Nichols House Museum on Mount Vernon

The tours of the home are excellent; they are offered from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. and cost $8. You can find additional details on their hours here and don’t forget to consult their list of special programs and events.

Stop By And Celebrate African American History on Joy Street

Tucked away on Joy Street, the wonderful and mind-expanding Museum of African American History (MAAH) is a lesser-known gem on Beacon Hill. Over the decades, the MAAH was worked tirelessly to tell the complex and fascinating history of African Americans in Boston and New England.

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Photo: Museum of African American History on Beacon Hill

Of course, you shouldn’t miss one of their guided tours along the Black Heritage Trail, which are rich in detail about the ways in which African Americans have transformed the Hub over the past three plus centuries. Additionally, the African Meeting House, is part of the entire experience and it happens to be the oldest extant black church building in the United States built by free African American artisans. This remarkable structure was completely restored in 2011 and a visit to the MAAH is not complete with a tour through its full expanse.

The Greatest Amendment, Served With A Burger

Walking back in the direction of XV Beacon, you’ll come across the 21st Amendment. No, no, no, it’s not a copy of that most celebrated amendment that permitted Americans to legally imbibe again, but rather a most wonderful bar that’s but a legal brief throw away from the Massachusetts State House.

As with most bars, the 21st Amendment has a different tone depending on when you stop on by. Lunch might find a group of lobbyists and lawyers talking about the horse-trading that goes on across the street, while the evening hours might find groups of Suffolk University students making merry past twilight time.

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Photo: 21st Amendment, a most inviting food and drink spot

Along with a beer or a mixed drink, you’d do well to try one of their signature burgers, which have received accolades from Boston Magazine and Secretary of State John Kerry, who lives nearby on Louisbourg Square. I can heartily recommend the 21st Burger, which is graced with caramelized onions, swiss cheese, and applewood smoked bacon. In terms of appetizers, the mini slider cheeseburgers are worth checking out.

There’s much more to do in Beacon Hill and you might also stop by the State House for a guided tour through the building’s rich history and architecture (another Bulfinch creation) or take one of the excellent walking tours offered by Boston By Foot.

At the end of your day out and about, you’d do well to stop by Moo, the signature restaurant located on the first floor of XV Beacon. Step up to the bar and check out one of my favorites: the New York sirloin or the Greek salad with grilled shrimp. It’s the perfect coda to the evening and you’re just a short elevator ride back to your room.

Max Grinnell is a writer based in Cambridge, MA, who writes about cities, public art, geography, travel, and anything else that strikes his fancy. His writings can be found online at www.theurbanologist.com and he tweets over @theurbanologist.

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