Located in Harvard Square, the hotel boasts a history as rich as its design. The story of this Cambridge, Massachusetts hotel begins in December of 1991 when local artist Charlotte Forsythe purchased the house at 6 Prentiss Street in Cambridge with a vision of turning it into an inn. She knew little at that time about its past. As she and her husband, Gerald Fandetti, began their renovation project, Forsythe researched the history of the property and its former inhabitants.
William A. Saunders, a well-known architect, built the house at 6 Prentiss Street in 1843 as a wedding gift for his son William, deacon of the former Shepherd Church , and his son’s wife, Mary Prentiss. The Neo-classical design was typical of the Greek revival that dominated American architecture in the 19th century. The Saunders, who owned much of the land in the area, lived in the house for 55 years. They were followed by the Taylors, a prominent Cambridge family.
The Taylors bought the neglected home and repaired it, living there until Dr. Frederick Taylor died in the ’20s flu epidemic. By the time Forsythe purchased the property, it had gone through a number of incarnations before becoming the great Cambridge, Massachusetts hotel and inn known as the Mary Prentiss Inn, including a hostelry and a nursing home.
As the new owner of the house (soon to be a Cambridge , MA historic hotel), Forsythe researched its past. She first learned of the Taylor family when saw the obituary for Dr. Taylor’s daughter, Martha Taylor. She studied Dr. Taylor’s life at Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library, and eventually tracked down one of his friends, Ann Mayvaert. Mayvaert recalled many of Dr. Taylor’s colorful stories, and was able to provide insight into the life of the inn in Cambridge, including long nights by the kitchen stove and visits from Dr. Wilford Grenfell, a family friend famous for his work in Canada.
Forsythe’s research also uncovered a poignant story about the Cambridge, MA historic hotel and its former owner, William A. Saunders Jr., who had fallen on hard times when the Taylors purchased his house. Saunders, who was heavily in debt and subject to arrest if found on public streets during the day, was mourning the recent death of his wife, Mary Prentiss. According to Taylor , Saunders used to visit the house at night and sneak into the garden to pick moss roses his wife had planted years before. Though Taylor never saw Saunders, his visits were evidenced by the disappearance of the most beautiful rose blooms from the garden. Over the years, the rose garden eventually disappeared from the inn and Boston and Cambridge transformed around it.
Now, the Mary Prentiss Inn has become an elegant historic Boston hotel with Internet access and other modern amenities. And though the Cambridge, Massachusetts bed and breakfast inn does not have a rose garden, the memories are still alive. The house had fallen into disrepair after the Taylors left, but a careful and loving renovation preserved the structure’s authenticity while updating it to modern standards. New features include sprinklers, firewalls, handicap-accessible ramps, wireless high-speed Internet, air conditioning, and an addition that houses two deluxe rooms with fireplaces and Jacuzzi bathtubs. Forsythe regrets that she was unable to meet Martha and tell her of the house’s rebirth as an award-winning New England inn.
Named for Saunders’s beloved wife, the Mary Prentiss Inn offers guests a quaint Cambridge hotel with Internet access and excellent service in a vibrant New England location. The historic Boston hotel and inn is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places and recognized as a historical landmark by the Cambridge Historical Commission.