How far is the unseen world from Midtown?

Welcome to day 26 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society.  (More about heterotopias and liminal spaces.)  Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.


“There is no question that there is an unseen world. The problem is, how far is it from midtown and how late is it open?” ― Woody Allen

Woody Allen is no doubt speaking of Manhattan’s midtown, while I’m referring to Midtown Hotel in Boston, the fifth of my favourites.


I had long admired its mid-century low-rise almost-western motel sort of look, smack dab in the middle of Boston, a city where glamourous, luxurious, high-rise, grand hotels reign supreme — Boston Park Plaza, Mandarin Oriental, Eliot Hotel, Four Seasons Boston, Taj Boston, Fairmont Copley Plaza Boston, Ritz-Carlton Boston Common, Boston Harbor Hotel, Hilton Boston Back Bay, Copley Square Hotel, Fifteen Beacon, The Loews Boston Hotel, to name a few.

The Fairmont, Boston, June 2012

The Midtown’s price is great, usually about $100 per night, and the location is pretty perfect, near restaurants and shopping at Copley and Prudential, across from photogenic Christian Science Center pool and plaza, with its Mary Baker Eddy library and mapparium, and walking distance to the symphony and the Museum of Fine Arts (and really to Boston Public Garden and Common, only about a mile away).

Christian Science plaza and Prudential Center, June 2012
Prudential Center and Copley Place, Feb. 2015
outside Neiman Marcus at Copley Place, decorated for Christmas, Dec. 2015
atrium with fountain, inside Copley Place, March 2015
Christian Science plaza, March 2014
gardens on Christian Science plaza, June 2012
Mother Church of the Christian Scientists, and Christian Science Publishing House with Mary Baker Eddy library and mapparium, June 2012
Mother Church of Christian Scientists, Feb. 2015
Mother Church of Christian Scientists, Feb. 2015
conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic at Symphony Hall, March 2014


So I was happy to book a room there a few years ago, in late February 2015, for an overnight stay during the 2015 Boston Flower Show, and then another time so that we could take an early train from South Station. In all, I think we’ve stayed at the Midtown three times and hope to do it again.

‘Basic’ wireless is free, with ‘high-speed wireless’ for an additional $10/night. There is also an outdoor pool, which is usually frozen when we are there. Pets are allowed for a fee.

outdoor pool in March 2015 … no diving

The Midtown’s big drawback is that it’s on the Green Line, a confusing 4-headed T monster of a subway/trolley line if ever there was one, so we just Uber when staying at the Midtown. Or walk to the Orange Line. Or walk to the destination. If you drive a car there, there’s parking on site for a $25 fee.

I guess the other downside is that it’s a motel, not opulent, with no breakfast — though Thornton’s restaurant, next door, is quite fine for breakfast. There is sometimes a line after 9 on weekends.

strawberry crepe at Thornton’s, March 2015
salmon, bagel, tea at Thornton’s, March 2015


There’s nothing really remarkable about the Midtown, other than the price, although I do dig the retro decor. They have a bellman to hail a cab if you want one, you can store bags at the front if your room is not ready on check-in, and there is a cute little lobby. But the rooms are just motel rooms, with adequate amenities, though certainly a good value for the price in Boston.

The rooms we’ve had have been fairly large, but with no microwave or refrigerator (you can rent a refrigerator, which probably tells you more about the hotel than they would wish).

fairly spacious room with queen bed, two nightstands with lights, March 2015
bed, flat-screen TV, dresser, mirror, window, Feb. 2015
bed, flat-screen TV, dresser, table large enough for two laptops, two chairs, closet and more drawers, Feb. 2015
closet and dresser, with ice bucket and cups, Feb. 2015

The one light/fan combo switch for the whole bathroom area sheds light on the little sink alcove as well as the closed-off room with the toilet and shower, so at night it’s bright as midday in the bedroom if someone needs to turn on the light to use the facilities.

sink outside bathroom, lit by same light as bathroom (Feb 2015)
behind the door, the tub/shower and toilet (Feb 2015)

On our first visit, we could hear everything from the noisy room either above or next to us, until 1 a.m. and again at 7 a.m.  Which is unfortunately true in many motel rooms, and another reason anonymity is key.

I especially enjoy the aesthetics of the public spaces, such as this hallway/stairway, filled with potted plants, with a view to the parking garage.


This was the view from our room one time:


I’ve recommend the Midtown Hotel to everyone I know who stays overnight in Boston.

night view, Feb. 2015

It’s the sign lettering, the font, that makes it seem like a western hotel, isn’t it? Shoot out at the Midtown. Let’s hope not.


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