Omni Parker House: Birth Place of the Boston Creme Pie

Photo taken by Malaya Hayes. Recent photograph taken outside of Omni Parker House which is located on a busy street.
The Oldest Continuously Operating Hotel in the United States
By Malaya Hayes
When standing outside, the Omni Parker House, it is clear that it is the 21st century. But the moment you step inside, you are transformed into the 19th century. The hotel has kept the old historic charm while keeping the place up to date.

Whether you want to see the place where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jackie or the place where he announced his run for congress.

Or maybe you are stopping in to see where Parker house rolls and Boston Crème Pie was invented. Either way, you have reached just the place.

Originally called Parker House, it was opened in October of 1855 by Harvey Parker. An ambitious man from Maine who realized to make it big, he had to escape his small town.

“He (Parker) found this little kind of dingy dark underground cafe called Hunt’s cafe. And he was inspired. And he was like, this is what I want to do, I want to run this café,” said Susan Wilson, the Omni Parker Historian. “He eventually saved up enough money to buy that underground cafe. And he called it Parkers. So that was actually the original Parker’s way back in 1832.”

Harvey wanted to create a place where people could get fine food and fine accommodations, whether you were from in town, out of town, or from around the world.

“One of the things that distinguished the hotel from the beginning was the food. And what Harvey Parker realized was many hotels in America worked on what was called the American plan of food,” said Wilson. “And it was basically that you paid one fee, and you got room and board. But what they often did was just produce a bunch of food, set a bunch of people down at the table at a certain time and they would serve you all the same thing.”

Photo provided by Omni Parker House Historian. This photo showcases the chances of the exterior of the hotel over the years.

Parker’s House was the first American Hotel to not charge guest for food with their room and board and to not use the American food plan.

“And he decided to do something called the European plan, which meant that he had menus, where you could make choices, and where you could get meals at any time,” said Wilson. “So if you wanted to come at 530, or 730, for your supper, or if you wanted breakfast at a different time, you could do that. So he separated the fees, and made it a much more personal experience.”

The food plan wasn’t the only thing that Parker did to make his hotel different from all of the others in the city.

“One other thing he did, right from the beginning was have top notch chefs. And during that period they developed two very distinctive things that people know to this day, which are Parker house rolls, and Boston Cream Pie,” said Wilson.

In 1996 Boston cream pie was selected as the official state dessert of Massachusetts, beating out very popular local inventions such as Toll House cookies, and Fig Newtons, which were invented in Newton. Becoming quite iconic.

Despite going through many renovations, Parkers house has never closed its doors to customers. This makes it the oldest continuously operating hotel in not only Massachusetts but in the United States.

“What happened with the Parker house is they left one section of the building, which is called the Bosworth extension open. And they tore down the main Victorian building, and built a new building on the site, it is basically on the footprint of the old one, but made it much more modern with modern amenities and all what you needed with plumbing and fireproofing, etc. But it never closed, because that one section was left open throughout the renovation process.”

But the Parker House wasn’t always in great shape, there were some bad times too. Eddie Cotto, the longest tenured associate of Omni Parker House, tells of when the place was struggling.

“We had tape on the rug holding the rugs together. And some of the windows on the front were all boarded up because they were cracked, and we didn’t have the money to fix them. And the restaurants weren’t doing business.”

This was due to bad owners who didn’t want anything to do with the hotel and would put anyone with a sob story on the payroll. But the hotel was then sold to new owners who brought in fresh money and updated the hotel.

Cotto retired in 2020 after 52 years with the hotel, he still talks all of the people he got to meet.

“My favorite memory was meeting a lot of great people. I don’t think I would have stayed there if there wasn’t a lot of nice people that I work with. I think that kind of gave me the incentive to stay there and make it a lifetime career. I met a lot of good people, workers, and guests as well.

Cotto recounted meeting Muhammed Ali, Don King, the Washington Bullets, Jimmy Carter, and more big names while working as a bellboy.

When asked why the hotel has been able to stay open for so long, Cotto said “The reason I think they did was because the location number one was probably the best in the city”

Cotto was brought into the business when he was young by a friend who worked for the hotel.

“The reason I stayed there all that time was there was a neighbor of mine, John Brown, and he was the senior bell captain, and he took me under. He created little jobs for me to do after school and things, and that’s how I got tied up in it. You know, back then it was a family owned. So everything was pretty much if you’re a good person and did your job, you didn’t have to worry about nothing.”

Parker’s house has a long history in the city of Boston. Having being restored to its formal glory by Omni hotel group.

“So the Parker house luckily, or because everyone thought it was so important, was able to maintain that and then exist up until you know, the modern day,” said Wilson.

So make some time to stop into 60 School St, Boston, MA. Whether you are stopping in to stay or just to have some amazing food, you are sure to have a great time.

About Malaya Hayes 4 Articles
Malaya Hayes got a Bachelors degree in Communications from Michigan State University, before she earned her Masters degree in Journalism from Emerson College. She has a deep passion for social media and writing. Malaya plans to go into public relations.