Jail Serves New Life Sentence

EG Sawyer helps repurpose building into secure hotel

Bostonians have an interesting conundrum to puzzle: Was the security better at the Charles Street Jail when it was a prison, or will it be better this coming spring when the completely refurbished site reopens as a luxury hotel?

This is not idle speculation. Electrical contractor Edward G. Sawyer Co. Inc. (www.egsawyer.com), Weymouth, Mass., is in the midst of a complete upgrade and modernization of the security electronics for the soon-to-be-opened Charles Street Hotel. The final result, with a total value of $100 million, is a luxury, four-star hotel, which will offer guests stunning views of the Charles River.

Certainly, the hotel’s fire protection system will be one of the finest in Boston. In fact, Boston has some of the strictest code requirements for life safety, measuring up with Chicago and New York City. And numerous devices are being incorporated into the lighting and other electrical systems to ensure the electronics are just as state of the art and efficient as the fire detection.

A lot of experience is going into the project. Founded in 1864, E.G. Sawyer stakes its claim as the nation’s oldest continuously operated electrical contracting company in the business. With more than 142 years of service, E.G. Sawyer has handled a host of high-profile jobs.

Luxury hotel

Designed by Cambridge Seven Associates and developed by Carpenter & Co., the 239,000-square-foot Charles Street Hotel eventually will house 304 luxury guest rooms along with the usual complement of dining, meeting and other hotel facilities. There will be 15,000 square feet of conference facilities and a 15-story wing for additional guest rooms. A courtyard garden will join the jail and the wing. General contractor Suffolk Construction in Boston asked E.G. Sawyer to bid on the electrical.

“We had done one or two smaller jobs for them in the past,” said Bill Seaver, project manager, E.G. Sawyer.

“We are installing power, telecommunications, lighting, fire alarm and emergency power generation along with security and hearing-impaired systems for the guest rooms,” Seaver said.

There is an 80-foot atrium in the middle of the remodeled jail house along with the jail bar and two restaurants.

“Most of the current structure is to remain, incorporating the existing blue stone into the new design,” Seaver continued.

E.G. Sawyer is refurbishing and reinstalling the existing outside lighting for the Charles Street Hotel. The total value of the lighting and low-voltage contract is $6 million.

The job was a straight-bid.

“We added some ideas for value engineering, which have been incorporated in the job for the sole purpose of meeting the budget,” Seaver said.

He feels that one of the keys to getting the job was the ability to estimate well.

“We have the experience to perform on any electrical project that may arise. The estimating team uses one of the best estimating systems available to electrical contractors today. The estimators, themselves, are skilled electricians with many years of experience,” he added.

The prime contractor on the project is Suffolk Construction. Project managers are Hank Klein and Chris Walenten. Shooshanian Engineering is the engineer of record and specified the products that E.G. Sawyer is using to make the Charles Street Hotel a landmark people will want to visit.

No pain, no gain

Most contractors agree that a refurbishment is tougher than new construction. Since this is a historic project, E.G. Sawyer Co. has to be doubly careful.

“Coordination for the MEPs has been a nightmare,” Seaver said. “There are so many different systems and very little room to install them.”

The tight working spaces were certainly a hurdle.

“Trying to fit the equipment into the space we have to work with is tough,” Seaver said.

John Tradd, general foreman on the job, has been in the business for 25 years, and the atrium electrical is an impressive job for Tradd’s team.

“His knowledge and supervisory skills are the best there is,” Seaver said.

The electronics

Tradd and his team will place chandeliers in the lobbies of the Charles Street Hotel while working on a platform built 80 feet up into the air. The entire site has incorporated energy efficient, low-voltage lighting. Dimming panels are installed in the public areas for lighting control and conservation.

There are occupancy sensors in most of the public spaces, and the electrical contractor is installing more than 3,000 fixtures.

The heating and ventilation control work is being done by another electrical contractor firm, J M Electrical Co. Inc., Lynnfield, Mass.

The signals for the television, telephone and minibar monitoring are transmitted on one cable and split in the room.

“This concept incorporates the newest telecommunications systems,” Seaver said.

The efficiency of having one run with multiple drops will pay off both now, at installation and in the future.

The SimplexGrinnell fire alarm system is addressable and incorporates fan shut-down, smoke evacuation and carbon monoxide control.

Just as when the building was a prison, the plans call for a closed-circuit television (CCTV) monitoring system both inside and out. The electronics will be wired in, but the actual models and types of cameras and controllers have not been determined.

In this case, the cameras continue to help the good guys—guests, hotel management and security staff—not the bad guys in their cells.

It is not surprising that such an efficient suite of life-safety systems should be installed. E.G. Sawyer has a long history of involvement with public works and of innovation and progress.

Completion in 2007

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the Charles Street Hotel project is scheduled for completion in early 2007. Unlike its days as a jail, most observers expect people will be paying a good fee to get in and spend a night in one of its rooms. Of course, the comfort level will be higher, guests will feel more secure and the amenities will be far better. That comes thanks to the people working the project.

All of the electricians on the jail-to-hotel project are members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 103.

“Our personnel are the best in the industry,” Seaver said. He cites their ability to procure the right equipment and manage the project. “Along with Local 103’s union training, this will be the factors that bring this job in on time and under budget.”

Everyone on the team is excited about the potential for a remarkable job at the Charles Street Hotel.

“I’m anxious to see the final product,” Seaver continued. “I’m proud of the work we accomplish in the city of Boston.”           

Harler, a frequent contributor to SECURITY + LIFE SAFETY SYSTEMS, is based in Strongsville, Ohio. He can be reached at 440.238.4556 or curt@curtharler.com.

History Runs Deep in Industry

E.G. Sawyer Co.’s offices were originally located in Boston’s Court Square, where Government Center is located. The company is so old that, earlier in its history, Alexander Graham Bell was a neighbor. The company originally maintained gas lighting and eventually became involved in electrical lighting.

The business went through some changes of ownership, and in 1965 it was purchased by one of its employees, Bob Mackay. Mackay ran the company until 1976. It is currently owned and operated by David R. Mackay, chief executive officer and governor of the Boston National Electrical Contractors Association chapter; Paul McCluskey, president; and Joseph McCluskey Sr. and Joseph J. McCluskey Jr., vice president and COO

In 1989, E.G. Sawyer purchased LCN Inc., one of New England’s premier telecommunications integrators. This allowed the company to become fully immersed in low-voltage and systems integration. In 2005, E.G. Sawyer purchased the assets of Seaver Electric Corp. This acquisition provided access to industrial and vertical construction markets, further rounding out the firm’s offerings.


Edward G. Sawyer Co. Inc.—Lead electrical contractor

J M Electrical Co.—Electrical contractor partner

Cambridge Seven Associates—Architect of record

Suffolk Construction—General contractor

Shooshanian Engineering—Engineer of record


Barbizon Lighting—Dimming and controls

SimplexGrinnell—Fire and life safety system




About the Author

Curt Harler

Freelance Writer
Curt Harler, a frequent contributor to SECURITY + LIFE SAFETY SYSTEMS, is based in Strongsville, Ohio. He also can be reached at 440.238.4556.

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