Although best known for dinner rolls and Boston Cream Pie, the Parker House Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, was also known as the temporary residence of Victorian British author Charles Dickens during his second tour of the United States from 1867-1868. Dickens was already a prominent celebrity at the time. He was booked into the Parker House, Boston’s most opulent hotel, whose rooms included such luxuries as hot and cold running bathwater.
Upon his arrival in Boston on November 19, 1867, hotel owner Harvey Parker, Jr. provided Dickens with a spacious apartment on the third floor. Suite 138-139 served as Dickens’s home during his six-month stay in the United States. It was in this suite that Dickens spent endless hours practicing his readings before a large, arched mirror in a walnut frame. His readings included A Christmas Carol, and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers. They were performed to sold-out audiences at the Tremont Temple next door. The first public performance was on December 2, 1867. Dickens gave his last Boston reading on April 8, 1868. He left Boston two days later, never to return.
The original hotel building was torn down in the mid-1920s and was replaced with more modern accommodation at the same location. Although Dickens’s suite of rooms is gone, his door and mirror remain on display at the Omni Parker House.
The eight-foot-tall door was almost lost when the original hotel was destroyed. A wrecking crew worker recognized the door and donated it to the Bostonian Society, who placed it in storage. In 2015, the society returned the door to the hotel. It’s framed in wood and mounted behind glass on a wall in a small museum on the hotel’s ground floor. The door is displayed with the original 138 and 139 enameled door numbers and a small framed plaque that reads:
“Door to Rooms 138-139, Parker House. Occupied by Charles Dickens in 1867. Also occupied by Charlotte Cushman from October 7, 1875, until her death February 18, 1876.”
Each December, the door is adorned with a festive Christmas wreath as a nod to Dickens’s famous seasonal novella.
Dickens’s rehearsal mirror now hangs at the end of a corridor on the hotel’s Mezzanine. The mirror is around four-feet wide and six-feet tall. It’s mounted in an arched and intricately carved walnut frame. Brass plaques mounted on the frame’s base and next to the mirror read:
“Mirror from the rooms at the Parker House occupied by Charles Dickens 1867 & 1868 authenticated by the Boston branch of the Dickens Fellowship.”
“Look closely and see reflections of Dickens as he practiced a ‘Christmas Carol.’”
Many claim that the mirror is haunted by Dickens himself. It’s said that if guests gaze deeply into the mirror, they might see the renowned author dressed in his performance attire. Others report that saying, “Charles Dickens,” three times before the mirror will cause the nearby elevator bells to chime.
Whether or not one believes in ghosts, it seems that the Parker House Hotel may still be imbued with the very spirit of Dickens.
Know Before You Go
The Parker House Museum is located on the ground floor of the hotel, next to the gym.
The Dickens's Mirror is located on the hotel Mezzanine. From the front door on School Street, go up the stairs to the Mezzanine. Turn left and look for a corridor on the right with a sign that says: “Press Room –>.” The mirror hangs at the end of that corridor, next to a bank of elevators.