19 March 2009

Doorway of Mystery

There is very little about the George & Sons Gourmet Deli at 84th and York Avenue to interest one. But walk around the corner to lay your eyes on a portal of intrigue.

The ground floor of the building has a side door of handsome brickwork. But it is dramatically apparent that no one has used it in a long time. A metal gate, drawn decades ago I'm guessing, is a study in rust. Every inch of metal is pure orange. The padlock keeping it in place has not been touched since it clicked shut; it has literally become one with the gate, and could be opened at this point only with the help of an ax. Another lock inside the gate is equally rusted.

Behind the gate one can glimpse the ancient wooden door, the paint on it faded and peeling, it's window pane long ago broken. In the transom space above the door—also fortified by old metal fencing—a couple pigeons happily exist.

A way of dating the era of this permanently slammed door hangs on one side of the door jamb in the form of an old metal thermometer for Nature's Remedy Vegetable Laxatives, made by the A. Lewis Medicine Company of St. Louis. "NR To-night. Tomorrow Alright." The gizmo looks no less that Depression-era.

Who first padlocked this door? And why did they do it so resolutely that no one's ever thought of opening it since? And if the entrance is so unwanted, why wasn't it bricked up long ago? Does George know? Do his sons?


M.Lane said...

This is just fantastic...and what a mystery! I have to tell you again how much I enjoy your blog. I hope you learn the answer to this one.


Brooks of Sheffield said...

Thanks so much, M.Lane! Nice profile.

Anonymous said...

Yikes, those look like barnacles growing on the padlock. And how great is that old thermometer? Great discovery.

lurker said...

And I also love the bricked-up elevator opening to the left of the door.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you sure can tell that that place is very old BECAUSE of the thermometer.
The hyphen in "TO-NIGHT" fell out of use, especially in American English, a long time ago.

By the way, you meant "door JAMB".
JAM is what you might want to put on your toast.

Erik said...

Really good post here, I hope you keep on the case of this mystery door. I really want to know its story.

Nice blog too!

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Erik: Thanks. I guess I could go into the deli and ask what they know about it. I have a sneaking suspicion that they've never given the door a thought, and that it was locked up by someone many years and many stores back.

Anonymous said...

FYI - The "Nature's Remedy" company (A.H. Lewis, then Lewis & Howe) later made Tums, and was acquired by SmithKlineBeecham.