Secret rooms enjoying a resurgence among custom home buyers — including in Denver

The woman stepped out from the shower in her Denver home — built between 1930 and 1933 — and started to slip on the wet tile. She grabbed a towel rack for support but instead got a surprise: The rack swiveled down and clicked, activating a segment of the wall. It swung open and revealed a small, dark room. Inside was a bar, fully stocked, dusty.

She surmised that it was likely untouched since Prohibition.

The woman — not named for obvious reasons — lives near the Denver Country Club in an iconic mansion. She had discovered by accident what more people are designing by intent.

Secret rooms are only slightly newer than rooms themselves. The builders of the pyramids famously created hidden rooms and passageways and ensured their secrecy for centuries by killing the workers who built them. (Today’s contractors usually just have to sign non-disclosure agreements.) Hidden rooms and passages have long been used to protect valuables and hide crimes, such as El Chapo’s secret escape tunnel or the mansion of H.H. Holmes in Chicago.

Holmes is often considered America’s first serial killer, but he may also have achieved some sort of macabre distinction with his use of secret rooms and passages. The top floor of his hotel was a maze of hidden staircases, doors that could be opened only from the outside and trap doors that allegedly allowed Holmes to enter rooms while guests were sleeping, kill them, and send their bodies to a basement crematorium via a secret chute. He used multiple contractors to build his bizarre structure so that no single one would know what he was up to. (His story was immortalized in Erik Larsen’s 2003 book, “The Devil in the White City.”)

Today, secret rooms are enjoying a new-found appeal. Custom builders say that it’s common for wealthy clients to want secret rooms in addition to giant kitchens, indoor pools, media rooms, home gyms and 11 bathrooms. The motivations vary between fun and fear, and perhaps mask an even deeper motivation: an innate need for privacy.

“In the late 16th century, English hiding places protected Roman Catholics (Recusants) and those to be sequestered in cabinets and cupboards,” according to Elizabeth Goodenough, a professor at the University of Michigan, editor of “Secret Spaces of Childhood,” and an advocate of getting away from it all. (The spaces are called “priest holes,” and were common.) “Today, we hear the expression ‘to recuse oneself.’

“In our own country, we recall the dark places where Abolitionists hid runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad,” Goodenough wrote in an email. “Global surveillance threatens privacy even further today. Secret spaces allow adults to grow inwardly in a noisy, fragmented and chaotic environment of cellphone and computer distraction.”

Steve Humble, whose Gilbert, Ariz.-based company, Creative Home Engineering (CHE), specializes in installing hidden doors and secret passageways, said that the impetus for hidden rooms is changing. “Ten years ago, 70 percent of our customers wanted hidden rooms for fun. They wanted smoking rooms, bars, that sort of …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Lifestyle


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