18 March 2010

Mystery Door at Keens

Whenever I pass Keens Steak House, I pause to admire the old building and its many singular details.

The word "Bar" spelled out in tile just outside the bar entrance. (That the restaurant still has a separate bar entrance is in itself a thrilling thing.)

The heavy metal pineapples on either side of the entrance, which once served as, I don't know, maybe boot-scrapers, or door stops.

So, the other day, I was admiring the many old bottles in the picture window to the left of the entrance, when I notice an old, inset doorway to the immediate left of the window. It's warped and slanted with time. There is no handle; it is evidently not used anymore. What was it for, I wonder.

There is a doorbell on the right of the door jam, surrounded by an ornate metal frame. I push it. Nothing happens. No sound. I push it again.

So I go inside to see what part of Keens the door would have led to. But where the door should be on the inside is the ancient coat room. There is a large, folded-up table leaning against the back wall of the coat room, so I can't tell if the door leads exactly into the room. But there seems to be no other option.

Servant's entrance? Escape route for gentleman dodging wives or creditors? Hmmm.


bigmissfrenchie said...

Regarding the pineapples, they may be merely decorative, as Pineapples are a Hospitality Symbol. In larger, well-to-do homes, the dining room doors were kept closed to heighten visitors' suspense about the table being readied on the other side. At the appointed moment, and with the maximum amount of pomp and drama, the doors were flung open to reveal the evening's main event. Visitors confronted with pineapple-topped food displays felt particularly honored by a hostess who obviously spared no expense to ensure her guests' dining pleasure

In this manner, the fruit which was the visual keystone of the feast naturally came to symbolize the high spirits of the social events themselves; the image of the pineapple coming to express the sense of welcome, good cheer, human warmth and family affection inherent to such gracious home gatherings.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

BMF: I know about the symbolism of pineapples. But I've mainly seen them on railings. Never in this foot-level position. But, you may be right. Maybe just decorative.

Anne Phelan said...

Second doors on old bars are often the "ladies" entrance, which would allow them to enter into a back room with tables, and not have to walk past the hooligans in the actual bar.