The Omni Parker House Hotel is renowned for many reasons. This establishment is the longest continuously operating hotel in the nation. So, it’s not altogether surprising that it’s also been dubbed the most haunted hotel in New England. While these are both compelling reasons to visit, for me, the hotel’s biggest draw is dessert!
Welcome to the birthplace of Boston cream pie. Our state dessert has been on the menu since the Parker House Hotel and its on-site restaurant first opened to the public in 1856.
This was the invention of Chef Sanzian, who hailed from France. At first, the dish was named "chocolate cream pie" or "Parker House chocolate cream pie." However, despite the variations in branding, the restaurant’s actual dessert remained unchanged over the years. Boston cream pie can be individually portioned or made on a larger scale.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of trying Boston cream pie or have only ogled it on Food Network, the dessert features two layers of golden cake held together by a generous wedge of rum-flavored pastry cream. Toasted, sliced almonds cling to the sides of the cakes but, what really set the dessert apart was the chocolate.
In the mid-19th century, chocolate was typically something you drank rather than ate —head over to the North End to Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop to see what I mean. So, when Sanzian used chocolate as icing on top of his signature dessert, it was a pretty bold move. He finished off his creation by adding a delicate webbed pattern on top of the chocolate icing.
This dish sounds like a cake and anyone who’s had the pleasure of sampling this creamy delight would probably classify it as such. So how come it’s called Boston cream PIE?
Well, when this dessert was invented, people often made cakes in pie tins or vice versa, depending on what they had on hand. The boundaries between cake and pie were less established.
In 1996, Boston cream pie legally became the Massachusetts state dessert.
Nowadays, you can find this dessert all over the city, but you should try it at Parker’s Restaurant at least once. In addition to being the dessert’s birthplace, Parker’s is a destination in its own right — after all, this is also where the slightly sweet, light as air Parker House rolls were first created.
Dining here rewinds the clock until it’s easy to imagine you’re enjoying a meal in an earlier century. It’s probably a good thing these wood-paneled walls can’t talk because they’d have plenty of gossip to share.
This is where JFK proposed to Jackie — literally right at table 40!
Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Bill Clinton have been customers. So too have baseball’s biggest names like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and David Ortiz.
Bet you didn’t know that Malcolm X, Emeril Lagasse, and Ho Chi Minh all worked as employees here!
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ben Affleck, Stephen King… the list of famous folks who’ve supposedly frequented the hotel is endless. However, it’s the people who checked in and never left that are the most intriguing of all!
The Omni Parker House Hotel has gained a reputation as one of the most haunted places in Boston.
The original owner, Harvey Parker, was so concerned with providing stellar customer service that he hasn't let death get in the way of his mission! People claim to have spotted his spirit gliding around the 10th-floor annex.
The ghost of Charles Dickens, who was a customer in life, is also believed to roam the hotel. Some daring souls who peer into the mirror on the mezzanine level swear they’ve seen the author looking back at them.
Dickens actually stayed on the hotel’s third floor, which is the location of more mysterious occurrences. The elevators keep returning to the third floor even when guests haven’t requested them.
This may have nothing to do with Dickens. Actress Charlotte Cushman died in a room on the hotel's third floor of pneumonia.
The smell of whisky and sounds of laughter emanating from Room 303 so unsettled the hotel’s employees that the space is now used as a closet.
So, there we have it. This hotel and restaurant offer spirits (of all kinds), the original Boston cream pie, and history galore. Have you visited this storied spot yet? The Omni Parker House Hotel is located at 60 School Street, Boston, MA 02108.
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