Since its opening in 1927, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel served as a playground for Boston’s social elite. In its heyday around the mid-century, following World War II, the building hosted film stars, stage actors, ambassadors, heads of state, as well as famous authors. Legend says that Tennessee Williams wrote material for A Streetcar Named Desire in the hotel bar, and Neil Simon re-wrote the third act of The Odd Couple while up all night in his private suite. Eugene O’Neill and his third and last wife, actress Carlotta Monterey, often stayed at the hotel during their early courtship.
Possibly the most famous of the hotel’s literary guests are the poets Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, who frequented the Ritz-Carlton bar for after-class martinis while taking a workshop with Robert Lowell at Boston University in the late 50s. George Starbuck, an aspiring poet and fellow student in the class, would join them after his day job as an editor at Houghton Mifflin. The story was originally recounted in Sexton’s essay “The Barfly Ought to Sing,” and has become a kind of literary “urban legend.” Another lewd detail claims that Sexton insisted parking her car in the loading zone behind the hotel, as she intended on getting “loaded.”
The hotel was the oldest continually operating Ritz-Carlton in the U.S. until 2006, when it was purchased by an Indian hotel conglomerate and rechristened the Taj Boston. A second Ritz-Carlton, opened in 2001 on the opposite side of Boston Common, still resides on lower Washington Street.