As a little Xmas present — and to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the death of Bill Arney on September 28, 2021 — let’s take a look into the Sam Spade apartment in 891 Post Street.
The date was September 20, 2009. Things are in disarray, as after a decade and a half Bill Arney is preparing to leave the rooms. He’s working to complete most of the restoration work he’d begun seriously in 2005, when a plaque was placed on the front of the building to acknowledge that Dashiell Hammett once slept here.
In the shot at top I display the key that eased me into the apartment to take a few pics — the window behind me obviously showcases finished staining, while the large baseboards need more work. The walls need paint.
This window on the north face of the building overlooks Post Street. Off to my left just out of sight is the doorway into the tiny kitchen. Just visible to my right is the period padded rocker Bill acquired late in his tenancy, trying to match the descriptions of furniture in The Maltese Falcon.
Over the years Bill secured other authentic items — from light switches to a Murphy bed — as longtime tenants moved on and redecorators stripped the apartments down to spray paint them white. He mentioned that he got the last Murphy bed left in the building.
In the shot below, the bed — folded up into the wall — is on the left. With the mirror. This wall is across the room from the couch and the northside windows.
In the next image the Murphy bed peeps out on the bottom right, with a good view of the living room door (a.k.a. the bedroom door) that leads to the hallway with the bend in the passage that ends up at the main door of the apartment.
A longtime occupant of the building, Mark Murphy, reports that “it was Minwax Gel Cherrywood stain that Bill used on the baseboards and crown molding, as well as door jambs and window mullions, etc. I remember pretty vividly Bill talking about this on more than one occasion. Amazing to me that any product on this planet can still be got for a mere $3.78!”
Mark also tells me, “I wasn’t anywhere near as involved in the Hammett Suite Restoration Project as Joe Hagen was. As I recall, it was during a time when both Bill and Joe were out of work, and each spent many a day and night scraping, sanding, heat-gun melting and whatever other techniques were available to remove eight or nine decades worth of accumulated paint from the woodwork in that room.”
In his own apartment, Mark used the same stain they had uncovered after all the scraping. “They were much more careful than I was in my room, as I got a little overly aggressive at times and put some rather unsightly gouges in the wood.
“And then to have the hired restoration team just coat it top to bottom in that dark walnut color that almost completely hides the natural beauty of the wood!
“According to research I had done, California Redwood would have been the cheapest and most plentiful wood available at the time.
“Kind of heartbreaking, even if the contractors involved did do a really good job on the restoration in general. They just didn’t seem that concerned with historic accuracy.”