Until now, press has only covered the opening of the Freepoint Hotel, located a few minutes away from Harvard and MIT. A web search makes you privy to the quirky aesthetic that characterizes Freepoint’s design elements. There are nifty photo slideshows highlighting the hotel’s lobbies, rooms, and bathrooms, but there has not been any coverage on the actual experience of staying there. Here is your insider look, well overdue, and just in time for the start of the academic year:
Anchored at the end of a roundabout in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Freepoint Hotel is adjacent to a gate separating it from a strip mall parking lot. Across the street is another strip mall. I’m hopeful that my 121-rooom boutique hotel choice and former Best Western, converted in May 2017 into a space offering a California-inspired kitchen menu, is a millenial-pink diamond in the rough. After telling the concierge my itinerary, he admits to not knowing anything about Boston, a Maine native himself. He suggests that I take the amphibious “duck” tour of Boston so I can get a dose of the city’s famous geographical hallmark – the Harbor that promises the best seafood New England has to offer. At least, that’s what other hotel squatters have told him.
Instead of participating in a live rendition of surf-and-turf, riding along land before splashing into the sea, I opted for exploring the revolutionary state by foot.
I walked along winding paths where women were once burned at the stake for witchcraft in Salem. I got an unmatched view of the water from the Freedom Trail cemetery before climbing up a hill to the North End Church, reminiscent of Montramarte, France. And I indulged in the city’s unmatched literary heritage at Concord and Cambridge. Landlocked in transit, I was already riding on the waves aboard Freepoint.
After an over 4-hour drive from Long Island, I made a beeline for my room, quickly taking in the lobby during a seamless check-in. Matching the photos online, I wasn’t surprised by the chic white subway tile-covered bathroom with contrasting black matte finishes. The black-and-white motif played well with the Living Proof hair care and Beekman goat milk’s bath products. I turned on the sink faucet that let out a high-pressured spray of water. I splashed my face a few times and before I knew it, a body of water surrounded me. Puddles circled my feet, streams of water fell on the mirror and all over the sink, and the unsightly droplets splattered on to the toilet seat.
I then checked out my room: two queen-sized beds covered with the Instagram-advertised CTRL +Z pillows – a spoof on the computer’s sleep mode. The makeshift closet consisted of a canopy-covered clothing rod. A lampshade with an exposed tweed-covered wire hung from the ceiling in the far corner of the room. Shades were up and revealed a blessing in disguise: A Whole Foods Market – where I frequented each day of my stay for a daily evening snack of protein bars, seasonal fruit, and hard-boiled eggs. The T.V., which I eventually turned on the next evening and thereafter had clear reception – a given in this era but rarity in my economical rooms from years’ past – and was part of DISH which offered every channel and network that I watch.
The in-house Starbucks – open to the public – was a Godsend. They opened at the crack of dawn – literally, and closed until well after this New Yorker could go without coffee. Not to mention that this location had surpassed my own local café where new menu items still were not available and the Clover machine – a single-serve-cup coffee-brewing contraption, produced the most aromatic, robust cup of coffee I had ever tasted. Caffeine fix or not, the stay at Freepoint wasn’t always a high. In fact, the art-deco décor, exposed patio, leather lounge seats, locally-produced artwork, room divider made from wooden boat paddles, and Polaroid photo-wall, did nothing to cancel out the lack of in-room amenities, included perks, turn-down service, and absence of staff knowledgeable about Boston, or the fact that the modest kitchen did not have so much as a microwave.
I spoke to front office manager, Kelly Krohn, regarding some of the less-than-savory experiences I had after first praising my breakfast of poached eggs and wheat sourdough toast. Why had my room not been cleaned or bed fixed? Krohn attributed it to human error: the staff had probably just missed my room. Digging a little further, I mentioned the staff’s lack of knowledge about the city and state in general. Why hire people who have no affinity for the place in which they’re employed? It’s difficult to hire anyone. Not just here in Boston, Krohn asserts. She mentioned that in California too, not many people are interested in joining hospitality. So there are too many jobs and not enough people looking for employment? That quandary seems a bit fishy.
So I followed up and spoke with supervisor, Scott McNaughton. He said “people in the industry are looking for higher-up positions,” and there is a limited supply. He felt uncomfortable continuing the conversation beyond this and put me on hold, disconnected and didn’t respond to my future calls. I called again about 30 minutes later to have him again put me on hold and then not respond. To be more clear, and what is more disconcerting, is that I called the main Freepoint Hotel telephone number.
I did ask Kelly about the idea of unspoken free labor, or interns who are students studying hotel management and are interested in the hospitality field. She replied that I had met two of their summer interns, both of who I met while they were working at the bar, taking my order and serving my breakfast. I had lengthy conversations with both Adelaide, Concord-native and a recent Cornell graduate who has plans to study environmental science in graduate school and Ashley, an undergrad in New Hampshire who is planning on continuing in hospitality. Both interns had invested interests in performing their job well and contributed to my overall enjoyable stay at Freepoint.
The director of sales, Charlene Thomas Navarro and other managers were rarely available, in person and remotely. Upon searching LinkedIn, I found 8 employees at Freepoint. The only person I recognized aside from Kelly was the bartender I had met one night: Frank Daffin. It was rather late and I needed an evening tide over, so I asked for mixed berries that I knew the kitchen had on hand for dressing the buttermilk waffles on the breakfast menu. He wanted to charge me $15 for a mix of blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Not one to skimp on food, I was miffed by the made-up price and settled on half the amount at $7.50.
All in all, Freepoint Hotel was a quintessentially millenial experience. The aesthetic was the equivalent of an Instagram-filter. First-world problems like pricey berries aside, the stay was unique and kept you on your toes. Will your sheets be changed? Will the shuttle pick me up? Will Starbucks have my coffee roast of choice? On a final note, I had asked Kelly about the hotel’s future plans. She paused and with a steadfast confidence replied that they wanted to make sure every room had a coffeemaker. Keep in mind that there was a Starbucks downstairs, but as a New Yorker who needs her morning cup of Joe, I applaud them for prioritizing coffee.