The Kendall Hotel, once the Engine 7 Firehouse, is a symbol of the pioneering spirit that has permeated Kendall Square for 200 years. During the 19th century, the neighborhood had become a major industrial center with several factories and power plants. Engine 7 was completed in 1895, and was one of the new, single-purpose firehouses. While earlier firehouses occupied the same building as police stations or other municipal offices, this was built to serve the rapidly growing industrial area. It was a fitting addition to the already innovative Kendall Square neighborhood, which over the last 200 years has been the home to significant ‘firsts’ — from first phone call, to first email.
The building was designed by architects R.J. Fitzgerald and S.D. Mitchell of Boston, and included steam pumpers and coal bunkers, maintenance facilities, dormitories for firemen, and stables for a permanent team of horses. When a more modern firehouse was built in Central Square in 1993, Engine Co. 7 closed its doors after protecting the area for nearly a century. While the rest of Kendall Square was renovating and continuing to lead innovation and technology, thelandmark building had fallen into neglect and was at risk of being demolished.
In 1999, local artist Charlotte Forsythe and her husband Gerald Fandetti, a developer, discovered the deserted firehouse. Sensing a brave, intrepid past they saw potential and knew preserving the building’s history, authenticity and character was vital to its revival. The couplehad recently renovated a period building in Harvard Square, the Mary Prentiss INN, with great success and received the Massachusetts Historical Commission Preservation award in 1995. Forsythe and Fandetti proposed turning the building into a boutique hotel, and the City of Cambridge awarded them sale of the property.
Renovation began in 2000 and the new owners, also possessing a bold spirit of innovation, were a perfect fit for the building. The existing 3-story firehouse was moved closer to the street,facilities were updated and a seven-story tower was built behind to accommodate more guests. As preserving the original architecture was a priority, they went through great lengths to restore the two cupolas that had deteriorated over the years. The smaller cupola, used to vent the building’s roof, required a complete rebuild and was crafted by owner Gerald Fandetti himself. The larger cupola was rebuilt and installed by his brother, Jack Fandetti. The installation of this larger cupola was impressive even for the tech-savvy neighbors, as the event drew a sizable crowd.
The Kendall proudly welcomed guests in 2002, becoming the area’s only historic, boutique hotel. After five years of hosting visitors from all over the world, it was expanded again in 2007 with another seven-story tower, which houses eight deluxe guest rooms, four suites and the Rooftop Retreat.
For a more in-depth look on the story behind Engine 7 and the restoration process, please read Saving Engine 7.