The Charlesmark, at the Center of the Universe

Copley Square, Boston

Just an hour’s drive from Rhode Island is the center of the universe. Just ask any Bostonian, they’ll be proud to tell you that the universe revolves around Boston – the “Hub” of the universe. And while the Boston Common is more famous, the center of Boston is Copley Square. It’s where all the action is – Shoppers flock to Newbury, Boylston is the place for Boston nightlife, the Prudential Center boasts of both a shopping center and the tallest office building in Boston – even the churches seem to cluster around Copley Square.

My wife and I took a weekend trip to Copely Square, as the guests of the Charlesmark Hotel, right in the middle of the action. It is so close to the center of the action, in fact, that the finish line for the Boston Marathon is right outside the Charlesmark’s front door. This is a European-style “boutique” hotel whose 33 rooms are tucked into an 1886 Boston brownstone whose front windows offer a view of the Boston public library and, to one side, Copley Square.

The original façade of the brownstone was stripped away years ago, when the building’s owners wanted a modern feel to a clothing shop on the main level. That led to the present hotel’s modern décor, a departure from Boston’s traditionally decorated hotels. Designer Dennis Duffy describes the interior decoration as “classic modernism with a minimalist flair”.

The rooms feature light woods, spare décor, and built-in cabinets – not the kind of place for people who live for the froufrou of quilts and doilies, but just right for people who love simplicity and convenience. Of course there are nice touches of elegance, like the Italian tile in the bathrooms and the European lighting fixtures, and the built-in speakers for each room’s music system.

The hallways feature artwork selected by curator Aimee Samuelson. She’s the “Curator” because each hallway is its own art gallery, with the work of local artists available for purchase in a constantly rotating selection.

In the second-floor lobby, a huge antique clock-face sits over the working gas fireplace. The hands are frozen in time, echoing the timelessness of the hotel, either as a retreat from the rush and jostle of Boston, or perhaps a place where the energy of a young spirit has been captured in its décor.

Our trip to Boston was to be a romantic getaway, so our host, Mark Hagopian, did his best make our visit memorable with flowers, chocolates and wine. One of the things that the staff of Charlesmark did exceptionally well was to provide personal service. For example, they looked up parking regulations for us and let us know while we were out exploring.

The service carried over into nice touches, like providing a wireless internet connection for my laptop computer, or having bagels and fruit in the lobby all day long. They even put lollipops in the bathroom toothbrush holder.

We made our own romance by exploring Boston on foot, admiring architecture, and “people-watching”. Exploring Boston should be done on foot – even though the Subway entrance is just 50 feet from the hotel’s front door. Boston’s Theater District is about the limit to most people’s comfortable walking distance, but the stroll is pleasant enough. We made the walk three times over the weekend, twice to take advantage of the parking garage under Boston Common and once to dine at McCormick & Schmick’s seafood restaurant.

Yes, there’s a McCormick and Schmick’s in Providence, in the Biltmore. But we were in Boston, remember.

Dining at McCormick and Schmick’s was wonderfully romantic – a dinner where a quick kiss between courses of perfectly prepared seafood went unseen behind the thick curtains of the cozy “snug”, and no one could overhear our whispers and giggles as we shared a chocolate berry basket dessert.

Of course the food at McCormick and Schmick’s is the real reason that people go there. We had clams casino where the flavor and texture of the clams still came through from under the crispy broiled topping of cheeses and minced vegetables. And for the first time, I had salmon that wasn’t overcooked – juicy and meaty instead of dry and flakey.

McCormick and Schmick’s serves Northwestern seafood, like you’d expect from restaurants that enjoy a view of the Washington state’s Cascade Range. The restaurant’s roots might come from Washington, but their seafood comes fresh from local waters and the local chef has considerable input into the menu and recipes. That makes the restaurant a Boston seafood restaurant, one where even the locals rave about their clam chowder.

You might also consider dining at “The Top Of The Hub” located at the top of the Prudential Building, just a stone’s throw away from the Charlesmark, renowned as one of the most romantic restaurants in the world, with its sweeping views of Boston and its fine cuisine. It’s so romantic, that their proprietors claim that if you gathered together every couple who got engaged in the restaurant, they’d be able to fill the entire 52-floor Prudential Building with happy couples.

For daytime activities, consider a ride on the Boston Ducks, where you can see Boston by both land and by sea (well… road and river…). Take in the art galleries and museums, or treat yourself to a day of pampering at a spa.

We did. And when we were done, we were still just a stroll away from a comfortable bed. Which, perhaps, is the most important part of staying at the Charlesmark. It’s in the middle of everything.

You can find the Charlesmark Hotel at 655 Boylston Street, Boston MA 02116. Phone them at 617-247-1212. Email them at or visit their website at .

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