On September 20, 2009 I took a shot of the hidden compartment Bill Arney had — mysteriously — set in the floor of the Sam Spade apartment.
I guess he figured, Why not?
Out of all the Herculean effort Bill put into preserving the place and recreating the Hammett era, the floor had to have been his masterwork.
Who even thinks about a floor, right? You stand on it. Transaction finished.
But during his seventeen year stint as Inhabitant of the Apartment, Keeper of the Shrine, and so forth, the floor jumped up in Bill’s face.
Earthquake retrofit work was going to be done on the entire building. Steel beam supports, the works.
They told Bill they were going to rip out most of the floor.
“And then what happens?” Bill inquired. “Do you put it back””
They’ll rip up the original woodwork, haul it out, pop in some plywood when ready, cover it with wall-to-wall carpeting and it’ll be very nice.
“Noooooooooooooooo!!!” — or something like that — Bill said.
An architect, an extremely detail-focused hobbyist (hand-painting tiny figurines from the Napoleonic Wars and the like), Bill proceeded to pull up all the flooring. He hand-numbered and cross-referenced each and every board.
And when the retro work was done, he put them all back in, in order.
Some shorter pieces ended up going in the west end of the room, on the floor below the windows overlooking Hyde.
As he was placing those last pieces, Bill realized he could make a hidden compartment, and he did.
Bill showed the hidey hole to the restoration crew hired to polish the place up when he moved late in 2009. He said they looked, with some minor oohs and ahs.
Bill glanced at me when he was telling the story and asked, “Do you know what they did with it?”
“Nailed it shut?” I said.
“Yeah,” Bill said. “They nailed it shut.”