A Mystery Revealed! Sorta.

The huge sliding door between the Octagon Bedroom and the Sewing Room.


Do you see what I see?

Why is all the trim in the room so dark (which happens when shellac ages) but not the door? The faux bois finish on the door appears near original, and was clearly not repeatedly re-coated with later layers of shellac like all the surrounding trim.

I thought I knew the answer.

In 1929, the house was converted into apartments on the second floor, and the two rooms became separate apartments. So, I assumed the door was simply shoved into the wall, and the opening infilled with a solid wall. And this how how things remained until Bob Rodak re-opened the portal.

However…a while ago I realize that there were no nail holes in any of the surrounding trim or floor. I mean, if a wall had been built in the opening, there would be nail holes, right?

Nope, nary a one.

Most curious.

Recently, I was giving a tour of the house to Phyllis and Louis and their family. The couple rented the Octagon apartment in the early 1970s, so I told them about the mystery as we stood in the room.

Louis quickly replied: “There wasn’t a wall there. There was a fitted armoire.”

In an instant, I knew what he meant.

During the 1929 apartment conversion, each room was fitted with a custom-built armoire, containing a Murphy bed. During the motel conversion in 1950, the armories were made into closets.

All the armories are now dismantled and stored on the third floor.

Today, I measured the door opening: 54-inches wide. There were two narrow unidentified armories on the third floor. One of these, surely, was 54-inches wide.

Nope. The two unidentified armories are 48-inches wide.

So…the WHY of the un-darkenend door has been revealed. But the WHERE of the 1970s armoire is still…a mystery!



  1. Pam on September 10, 2019 at 6:23 am

    So….Ross…you have a refrigerator in there. Are you moving things to work on the kitchen?

  2. David F. on September 10, 2019 at 9:10 am

    There appears to be a pattern on the floor that looks like 48″. I doubt the armoires were custom-made. Maybe they were all a standard size (48″) and the remaining space in the doorway was infilled to reach the 54″

    • Ross on September 10, 2019 at 9:16 am

      David! I didn’t even register the floor pattern! You are right!!!!!!!!!!

    • Bill H on September 10, 2019 at 11:29 am

      Beat me to it!

      One of (if not THE) the most astounding things about this house is that each of the owners, through all of the changes, had the foresight to maintain as much of the original details of the house, intact. As a REALTOR®, this boggles my mind (and is quite pleasing!)

  3. Rick S on September 10, 2019 at 11:25 am

    Is there a corresponding mark on the floor in the room on the other side of the door?
    Maybe the cabinets were back to back.

  4. Kim on September 10, 2019 at 11:29 am

    Murphy beds, armoires – cool history mystery but meh, whatevah. I’m SO loving the beauty of that door!! 😍

  5. Stewart McLean on September 10, 2019 at 12:08 pm

    My guess, highlight on guess, is that the door was never kept closed, so had no need of “brightening” with any coats of shellac. I the other side of the door in the same condition? If so, it would support my theory, but not prove it. If the octagon bedroom was used as more of a private daytime sitting room for Mrs. Cross, leaving the door open most of the time to her sewing room, which I would tend to think of as a project workroom, would bring more light into the bedroom during the day.
    No idea if I am right, but I infer from your comments that the lack of shellac seems to be the reason the door still looks good.

  6. Seth Hoffman on September 10, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    That is really fascinating, and the contrast in shades of the un-retouched door to the darkened shellac is such clear proof of how the wood was originally finished. Anyone who insists the original wood finish with the current dark color need only see this photo!

    And like others, I’m once again amazed at the respect of previous remodelers who preserved so much of the original features and details, rather than gutting and building new.

  7. Bill Whitman on October 24, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    I see this post is a victim of “Google knows best”. my guess is that you wrote armoire every time but Google decided you obviously meant armored and changed it. I have hit the check mark for the word I typed and Google knows best still changed it – return with us now to 1984.

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