Baltimore’s The Ivy: A Gilded Age Gem

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Inside the luxurious The Ivy. Photo by Stephanie Green.

Imagine you’ve been invited to a Baltimore industrialist’s 19th-century mansion in the heart of Charm City.

When you arrive, you’re ensconced in Italianate glory and taken to your room, where a four-poster canopy bed and a Frette robe await you.

Before your first meal, the butler does an inventory of your personal quirks so he can anticipate what you’ll need before you do.

This was the fairy-tale scenario that danced through my head when I ascended the grand staircase of the Ivy, Baltimore’s new luxury (and priciest) hotel, which gives greater meaning to the “boutique concept” experience.

Okay, so you don’t have a butler. But, James, the uber-alert concierge, might as well be. He talked me into taking an umbrella and sunscreen on my outings, uncannily predicting the weather and my skin’s intolerance of UV rays.

Also built into your room rate are your private driver, who will take you anywhere you desire within three miles; your custom-made breakfast (filet mignon with eggs, lemon soufflé pancakes and champagne); and the cocktail bar, always at the ready.

The feel is very private-clubby, what with the art-deco sitting room, Whistler-style portraiture and Tiffany stained-glass windows inspiring you to be your smartest, swankiest self.

There’s also a billiard room, a reading room and a library — one is encouraged to borrow books but not to return them.

You can take your afternoon tea (another hotel freebie) by the fire in one of these rooms and continue your “I’m the guest of a robber baron” fantasy.

The Ivy, a Relais & Châteaux property, was offering opulent hospitality long before it became a hotel, following renovations in 2015.

Built in 1889, the house was a Gilded Age gem in the Mount Vernon neighborhood until falling into a rather grim existence as a “government house” in 1939, when it was acquired by the city to house the Department of Public Recreation.

1983 saw the mansion’s renaissance as a stately home, when Mayor William Donald Schaefer redeveloped it for visiting dignitaries as “The Inn at Government House.”

In 2011, it was sold to a private company, which oversaw its current iteration as a five-star hotel with only 18 suites, so as to offer hyper-attentive service to its guests.

Because the idea is for you to forget that you are staying in a hotel, the Ivy has, unusually, a no-tipping policy. Luxury, after all, means not having to fret about percentages and keeping your pockets full of one-dollar bills.

Magdalena, the hotel’s bistro under the direction of chef Mark Levy, offers an array of local catches like fillet of Maryland rockfish and a house sommelier-selected wine
list. Teetotalers won’t want to pass up a “sparkling punch” (cranberry and organic apple juice, fruit puree and soda) in the Ivy’s garden courtyard.

Baltimore is seeing an uptick in upscale business travelers with the ascendancy of Under Armour’s global headquarters, based in the city. Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, who put his Georgetown house up for sale earlier this year, opened his own hotel, Sagamore Pendry Baltimore, in Fells Point last year. With its 128 nautically inspired guest rooms, the Pendry offers an experience quite different from that found at the Ivy.

Even for non-business voyagers, with this kind of elegance less than an hour’s train ride away, a trip to Baltimore may become D.C.’s new romantic getaway.

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