Wednesday, January 17

Hidey Holes and Hooch Hounds

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A few years ago I had the great privilege of teaching bread classes in the Greystone mansion for the Institute of Domestic Technology. The mansion, located in Beverly Hills, was the most expensive home built in the 1920s. It was a gift from oil bazillionaire Edward Doheny to his son Ned Doheny. To put it mildly, things life did not go well for the family. The Doheny family almost brought down president Harding through their involvement in the Teapot Dome bribery scandal and Ned’s life ended in a mysterious murder/suicide in the house.

The grounds of the Doheny mansion are open to the public and well worth visiting. The interior is, mostly, off limits but a friendly guard gave me a tour after a bread class. The feature of the mansion that most struck me was the elaborate prohibition era hidden liquor accommodations. Ned was a notorious alcoholic and fitted out almost every room with small cabinets tucked into the walls. He even had his own bowling alley in the basement adjacent to a speakeasy cleverly hidden behind a roll up wall. Both were restored for the film There Will Be Blood.

Prohibition sparked a lot of creativity in the 1920s even among those with fewer resources than Ned Doheny. I sometimes wonder if the trend for built in ironing boards and breakfast nook benches in 1920s era homes had a dual purpose? I also wonder if we’ll see another hidden cabinet trend if marijuana prohibition returns.

In case that happens, here’s just a few clever hacks from the 1920s:

“I’m just carrying a load of bricks officer.”

Too bad everyone listens to mp3s these days.

Then there’s the flask, small and . . .

party sized.

Should you wish to make your own secret hiding places there’s a book by Charles Robinson The Construction of Secret Hiding Places that you can download for free. There’s also an Instructable showing how to turn a spray paint can into a hidden safe.

Alas, none of these ideas will foil the “hooch hound:”

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