This massive bookcase is hinged and hides a secret closet...
April 14, 2016 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Joe Patten was born in 1927, and he lived until his death last week inside Atlanta's Fox Theatre, which opened in 1929. Over 35 years ago Joe, who was instrumental in saving the theater in 1974, was granted rent-free, lifetime occupancy of a deluxe Moorish-style apartment in a space that used to belong to the Shriners. This is that apartment. [via]
posted by jessamyn (35 comments total) 86 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, I had no idea. I've seen Annie performed at the Fox and, to be honest and with no disrespect to the performers, I actually enjoyed the theater itself more than what was happening on stage.

. for what sounds like a very interesting and unique individual.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:39 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by benito.strauss at 11:44 AM on April 14, 2016

There's something about hidden, unusual living spaces like this that I find totally fascinating.
posted by ColdOfTheIsleOfMan at 11:50 AM on April 14, 2016 [13 favorites]

McIntosh® tube amplifiers!

posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:51 AM on April 14, 2016 [8 favorites]

What a great story! I've been to the Fox a few times and it is incredible, but I had no idea someone lived there. And shame on the board for trying to evict him a few years ago!
posted by TedW at 11:53 AM on April 14, 2016

I should also like a large, beautiful apartment in Detroit's Fox Theatre. Hook it up, Mr. Ilitch!
posted by palindromic at 11:54 AM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I expected to see more cockroaches.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:55 AM on April 14, 2016 [6 favorites]

Coolest apartment ever, and those ratfink so-and-so's that tried to evict him should be ashamed of themselves.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:56 AM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

posted by Malla at 11:59 AM on April 14, 2016

I expected to see more cockroaches.

Took me a moment. A+.
posted by chonus at 12:03 PM on April 14, 2016

McIntosh® tube amplifiers!

Hopefully these fell into the hands of someone who understands the worth of this equipment.
posted by Ber at 12:03 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Needs more pictures of the hidden closet!
posted by jillithd at 12:11 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

I've been a theater projectionist for over three decades now, and..... I'm jealous. I'm extremely jealous, and I want a place like that for myself.
posted by easily confused at 12:13 PM on April 14, 2016

A lot of great concerts performed there. Rock and roll. For one, Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded a lot of what was to be their live album, One More From the Road at the Fox theater. For another, the Grateful Dead played there on several occasions finally releasing Dick's Pick's Vol 29 featuring moments from a show at the venue in 1977.

While I have never been there, it has a mythical place in my mind for its rock and roll heritage. Thank you to Joe Patten. Thank you for saving the place. Twice.

posted by AugustWest at 12:23 PM on April 14, 2016

Wow, I had no idea. I've seen Annie performed at the Fox and, to be honest and with no disrespect to the performers, I actually enjoyed the theater itself more than what was happening on stage.

In recent years I've seen Spamalot and Eddie Izzard at the Fox.

In case anyone reading hasn't seen it, the theater interior is spectacular.
posted by Fleebnork at 12:24 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Incredible! I knew there's all kinds of stuff in there that I've never seen but I had no idea there was a guy as old as my Dad living in the building. The last time I was there, I was escorting my brother, in a wheelchair, and they let us into some corridors I had never seen, to an accessible restroom. There were a bunch of fascinating pictures and other framed ephemera on the walls.

I remember in elementary school we were bringing our piggy bank money to school for fund drives to "Save The Fox". RIP indeed.

I saw a bunch of great shows there! . Not as many as I wish. Some movies and classical; performances, too. My first rock concert was there. I saw The Dead there in, I guess, 1985 - I think it was the last stand they played there, since there were a lot of problems with the parking lot scene and the Atlanta cops.
posted by thelonius at 12:47 PM on April 14, 2016

I've always loved spaces like this - in the past when I was ne'er do well teen, I apprenticed with a pipe organ tuner and got to know some of the secret places behind the facades of many of the local churches - the local catholic cathedral, for instance, has a choir room (they do not have a choir) which was accessed through a staircase up from the nave, through another staircase (and all of this in dark stained, properly catholicly gingerbread oak woodwork,) down a narrow, unlit arched hallway - into a room that looked like a driver's ed classroom from the 1970's, all fluorescent lighting and hard orange plastic chairs, terrible linoleum, and I'm sure the feces of a hundred generations of mice. This particular Catholic church had taken up against choirs at some point in its orthodoxy so it had just sat there, basically unused.

This connected to the choir loft, also unused, through a cleverly hidden door in the balcony. Once again in properly churchly splendor, all the gilded cherubim looked down on the balcony. As I understand it there was a similarly out of time room on the other side of the building for storing altar cloths and vestments and other liturgical frippery, though that one was better maintained.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 1:05 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

Wow! I had heard about the eviction attempt a few years ago, but I guess I never really thought about what the apartment itself would be like or how it would be integrated into the Fox. It's really an incredible place for a man who had an incredible life.

I really want to know what's going to happen to the apartment.
posted by Panjandrum at 1:54 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

That's really fascinating. Great post.
posted by TickTickVroom at 2:09 PM on April 14, 2016

Ooooh, another good one is that according to local historical gossip (the old folks in Kingston who have always lived here and their fathers and their father's fathers etc. are called Old Stones) there is a vast network of tunnels under the city, one of which apparently connects to what is lovingly called the "crypt" under the Anglican cathedral. I've never been down there but I once took a priest out for tapas and she confirmed that there was indeed a connection to some sort of tunnel, as the cathedral caretaker had to keep shooing the homeless out of there. The caretaker might have known where it goes, but he sadly died and a new one came on whom I never came to speaking terms with.

Best I've been able to piece it out, it connects to the cellar of what was once a hotel/lodgings, to one of the local hospitals, and possibly to what is now City Hall but was planned to be the parliament building when Kingston was considered as the Capital of Canada.

Kingston is known as the limestone city due to our abundant supply of limestone and lack of creativity, and in the historic buildings of the city you can see a great deal of influence from the masonic orders in the way things are constructed - indeed there is a large now-defunct Masonic Hall right behind the cathedral in question. Kingston Pen, for instance, an historic prison not far from downtown which was until recently in use, is an example of master mason work. It is an example of the great testament of humanity's ability to create a wonderful structure to do terrible things.

Anyway this is all getting away from the point at hand, which is that there are hidden places all around us, and while this supposed system of tunnels was likely no more than the usual whoring/drinking/escape trifecta popular with politicians of all ages, it is apparently extant to this day.

I know from chatting with several staff at the hotel (which is now a pub, and super-haunted, you guys! don' go in the basement because ghosts!) that that end of the tunnel is apparently bricked up with cautions of firing/safety to not approach it.

The tunnel end at the cathedral is as discussed, open. The one at the hospital (the likely one is very old and only a block or two away) would have to be situated in the basement and the building is such a maze anyway that it is likely sealed over, or in the laundry or morgue. City Hall is unknowable.

This all does mean however that there is one other entrance, at least, as the homeless have been able to find their way in and out. Popular theories are that it connects to the University's tunnel network, but these are steam tunnels and this seems unlikely. I personally believe that it must connect to the waterfront in some way as that is far closer and would be an effective means of egress should the now City Hall building be stormed.

This has gotten away from the of the topic at hand, sorry, I just am fascinated by this type of thing.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 2:23 PM on April 14, 2016 [18 favorites]

I really want to know what's going to happen to the apartment.

If there was any sort of competition, up to and including a cage match, I am ready and willing to jump in the ring. I was alternating between holding my breath and sighing with contentment as I scrolled down the page. This would be my fantasy living situation in ways I'd never even considered. (Or at least not considered since I was 9 years old.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:41 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

I MUST see what's behind the bookcase in the secret closet. Where did he park his car? Assuming he had one, of course.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 3:16 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Absolutely fascinating, though I wish for more photos, (and at least one of the secret closet opened for viewing). These photos were great..I always want more in places like this that enthrall me. Great post!
posted by annieb at 3:18 PM on April 14, 2016

I so, so, so so SO much want for you to eventually find that perfect "I live in the library" apartment you have wished for all these years, Jessamyn. This guy's your hero. RIP Theatre Apartment Guy.
posted by not_on_display at 4:20 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

When I was in college I had friends who lived in an old theater. Not as snazzily renovated, but a very cool place to hang out. Back then (late 80s/early 90s) there seemed to be no shortage of cast aside urban spaces for crafty types to call home. In addition to the standard warehouse lofts, I had friends in an old bank, a gas station, and a church. I think we completely took for granted that those spaces would always be available and cheap.
posted by billyfleetwood at 7:24 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

So, my house (designed by Mr. Carmicha) has lots of transformer-style features; I've posted photos of some of its hidden elements before. It may or may not include a secret room partway up a staircase and behind a fireplace, hidden by a sliding bookcase. If so, it would be about 8 x 7' with one window (for elevation symmetry reasons) and a slightly low ceiling thanks to some mechanicals/bedrock conflicts. Unlike Mr. Patten's arrangement, this bookcase, um, would slide into the room itself, such that when it was in secret mode, it looks like a built-in. The original plan purportedly involved the track systems medical offices use to roll those huge filing systems, but ultimately the solution entailed castors set in wooden tracks and concealed by the woodwork/kick plate at the bottom of the "built-in bookcase." As for how it's used, that's where one would probably keep art out of display rotation, silver, camera equipment, etc. It might also be the most popular place for grandchildren to sleep. If it existed.
posted by carmicha at 7:27 PM on April 14, 2016 [14 favorites]

Arrrrrgh!! Jessamyn beat me to posting this!! We are at the Fox about once a month.... Love love love this place!! I have coveted this apartment for years!! Found this blog yesterday and my kids and I have poured over every inch of the pictures. To live here would be our ultimate dream!! Thank you Mr Patton... This theater is a truly magical place.... Many happy things happen here because of you.

posted by pearlybob at 7:51 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm literally drooling.
posted by soakimbo at 7:52 PM on April 14, 2016

Wes Anderson, here's the setting for your next movie.
posted by gentian at 8:39 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

There must be something about Fox theaters. One of the things that has happened during my time living in the Spokane area is the restoration and reopening of the Fox Theater, which isn't much to look at from the outside, but which made my jaw completely drop the first time I walked into it. Now I wonder if there is an apartment hidden in there someplace.

I guess Rockefeller Center has apartments in it? Or is that Carnegie Hall? There are apartments hidden all over the place. I think they are wonderful.

This one, however, entirely surpasses wonderful. What an amazing place! Thanks so much for posting!
posted by hippybear at 12:44 AM on April 15, 2016

Prince plays at the Fox!!

Just to rub it in a little bit....Prince performed at our Fox last night!! If you are ever anywhere near Atlanta, come visit the fox and stay in the gorgeous Georgian Terrace . Built in 1911, it is amazing and directly across the street from the fox. And you are about three blocks up from Mary Macs....I could go on all day..
posted by pearlybob at 4:40 AM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

The Stones played there on the Tattoo You tour.
posted by thelonius at 2:35 PM on April 15, 2016

I went to a friend's wedding there (in the Egyptian ballroom, which is amazing) -- such a cool building, it doesn't surprise me at all that it had secret passageways and rooms. Wonderful story.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:26 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oooh secret spaces are awesome.

There are a series of tunnels under the Catholic Cathedral of the midwestern town where I grew up. You could sneak in from the base of the elevator shaft in the unlighted basement of the crumbling factory across the parking lot. I wish I were making this up, but this scary unsupervised stuff is where we played where I grew up.

You might not believe in vampires and monsters in the light, but take a walk through some of those creepy underground spaces with the dead rodent bones crunching beneath your sneakers, until you reach the crypts where the bishops were lain to rest. I got the willies something fierce down there.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 5:34 PM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd been to the Fox a few times for performances, but my eyes were really opened when I went to a wedding held in the Grand Salon. It was really, really cool. I never knew there were all of these amazing rooms above the lobby. There's a terrace with spectacular views of the city.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:46 PM on April 18, 2016

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