For romantics at heart:
Hotel Brexton’s urban fairytale
Looking for a fairytale weekend filled with enough romance to make your heart swoon? Plucked from the pages of Maryland’s own real-life storybook, Baltimore’s Hotel Brexton is one of America’s own urban Cinderella stories. Not only does this hotel look like a charming Queen Anne castle, it shares a Cinderella tale of perseverance, complete with an English king and abdicated throne — all nestled in the romantic neighborhood of Mount Vernon.
Romantic getaways in Maryland
Let’s begin our tale with the hotel itself. This seven-story gem of Baltimore-pressed brick first opened in 1881 as a residential hotel. It was grand from the start, considered “Very Handsome,” but over time, Hotel Brexton struggled to keep up with city code. By the 1970s, the hotel was forced to close for four years until new owner Rose Pettus Hayes waved her magic wand to the tune of $520,000 in renovations. With a new facelift, the hotel remained open until Hayes’ 1986 death, which again led to Hotel Brexton’s closing in spring of 1987. As in any tragi-romance, the building fell into ruin, but fortunately, by 2010, the building returned to the stage following $4.5 million in renovations.
Today, Hotel Brexton is just as “handsome” as it was before, and now features 29 rooms, each offering its own unique charm at this luxury boutique hotel — the perfect urban escape for a romantic getaway. Did we mention Mount Vernon has everything you need for a romantic night out — dinner, shows and accommodations — and all just half the price of a New York getaway? Besides, none of those Big Apple hotels have the same storybook charm as the circa 1881 Hotel Brexton. Couples can ascend the spiral staircase located in the hotel’s north turret. A complimentary European-style breakfast, reminiscent of the hotel’s early days, is available in the lobby-level café. By night, the surrounding Mount Vernon neighborhood is bustling with romantic activities for Hotel Brexton guests.
King Edward and Wallis Simpson
One of the hotel’s most notable guests brings us back to our fairytale story, featuring Baltimore’s own Cinderella, Wallis Simpson, plus a real-life king and the aforementioned abdicated throne …
In 1905, 10-year-old Wallis (the Cinderella in our story) lived with her widowed mother at the residential hotel. At the time, 58 bedrooms were wedged into the triangular building with only a handful of communal bathrooms. Wallis watched her mother eke out a living selling needlework at the craft exchange and cooking meals for the other lodgers. Eventually, a grown woman, Wallis went on to marry (two times and with her second vows being to a wealthy shipping executive). During the latter marriage, Wallis was introduced to Prince Edward, the heir apparent of the British throne.
A scandalous affair began then on Jan. 20, 1936, Edward ascended to the throne as King Edward VIII. Eventually, after the accession, Wallis divorced her second husband to marry Edward, much to the outrage of the government. The Church of England shunned her two divorces, and the king’s obligation to the church created a constitutional crisis. Out of love, on Dec. 10, 1936, King Edward abdicated his throne, saying in a radio broadcast: “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility … without the help and support of the woman I love.” The king became the Duke of Windsor, and on June 3, 1937, he and Wallis were married, turning the once-upon-a-time Brexton resident into a true-life duchess.
Romantic things to do in Baltimore
So where might one take their own duchess or duke out for a night on the town in Baltimore? After checking into Hotel Brexton, just 10 blocks north of Inner Harbor, explore Mount Vernon’s surroundings where romance is as thick as the Baltimore accents that drift into the night.
A romantic dinner for two is certainly a must, and with more than 50 restaurants sprinkled around the hotel, all within walking distance, the choices are plentiful, ranging from pub finds to sushi bars. Savor Indian cuisine, try an Ethiopian dish or visit a French restaurant. At the heart of everything, a three-minute walk from Hotel Brexton, you’ll find city-style cafés with a distinct New York City vibe.
After dinner, take in Baltimore’s vibrant performing arts scene with a stop at one of these nearby venues. Take your pick and watch a show at the Hippodrome Theatre, Everyman Theatre, Spotlighters Theatre or Center Stage. And as Beethoven would say, let music “strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman” at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra or the Lyric Opera House. If you’re an art lover, you’ll swoon over Baltimore’s many galleries and museums.
This cultural scene is also a favorite among Baltimore’s long-embraced LGBT scene, making Hotel Brexton an ideal getaway for gay and lesbian couples. You’ll find that Baltimore, hometown of gay filmmaker John Waters, ushers in a thrumming LGBT nightlife. Grand Central is an alternative bar, just two blocks from Hotel Brexton. Meanwhile, a two-minute walk will bring guests to Jay’s on Read, a charming piano bar with a posh vibe. If dancing is your definition of romance, there are a number of clubs certain to create the urban ballroom scene you’ve long been seeking for your own fairytale story.
Mind you, though, in Baltimore, the action doesn’t stop at midnight unless you want to retreat back to the ever-so romantic Hotel Brexton.