|Hammett news page
A short biography
The Continental Op
The Dain Curse
The Maltese Falcon:
The 75th anniversary
The Glass Key
The Thin Man
Woman in the Dark
The short story collections
The novels in one
Books about Hammett
Chronology of Hammett's fiction
Hammett's army days
"Dashiell Hammett Place"
Hammett's Post Street
A photo tour (2005)
The Flood Building
Links to other Hammett sites
Mike Humbert's Idiosyncratic Guide to San Francisco
This site is dedicated to all the people like Don Herron, Bill Arney, Richard Layman, William F. Nolan, Josephine Hammett Marshall, Julie M. Rivett, Steven Marcus, Joe Gores and others who have kept 1920s San Francisco in the here and now.
Special thanks to Vince Emery for his many helpful contributions to this website.
Entire website copyright 2003, 2004 & 2005 by Mike Humbert.
|HAMMETT'S POST STREET
|JANUARY 2011 UPDATE:
After sixteen years, Bill Arney, the longtime resident of Hammett’s old apartment, moved out in 2010. The rent has been taken over by author/producer/ patron of the arts Robert Mailer Anderson, who has hired a team of designers and contractors (led by Mark Schwendiman) to restore the place to its 1929 splendor. Work is progressing nicely, and here is what it currently looks like:
|When the restoration is complete, I hope to bring you additional pictures. In the meantime, enjoy the original "photo tour" from June 2005, hosted by our friend Bill Arney:|
|Bill Arney (left) and Mike Humbert in the room where it all happened.
(Photo by Perry Lake)
|I think it’s safe to say that San Francisco resident Bill Arney is a Dashiell Hammett fan. His bookshelf is filled with books by and about Hammett. He owns a trenchcoat and fedora. And, most importantly, he lives in the same apartment in which Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon over 75 years ago. In fact, several times a years, Bill opens his home to the public as part of Don Herron’s Dashiell Hammett Tour.
Building upon the earlier work of David Fechheimer, Joe Gores and others, Bill has done extensive research on the building he currently lives in, studying blueprints, and personally inspecting each individual unit, as well as the basement. He also did a line-by-line analysis of the Falcon text and discovered the following facts about Spade’s apartment:
· It was on Post Street, near the Hyde streetcar line.
· It was on the fourth floor.
· It was a one-room studio, where the bedroom became the living room when the murphy bed was raised.
· It had a bend in the hallway.
· It was necessary to pass the bathroom on the way to the corridor door.
Apartment 401 matches every detail, and is the only unit in the building that does. The only discrepancy is that Spade’s apartment had a breakfast nook, which no apartment in the building has. Chalk it up to literary license.
Over many months now, Bill has been slowly returning the tiny apartment to its late-1920s glory. He has painstakingly chipped away decades of paint from the natural wood molding, and relaid sections of the hardwood floor (he rejected the landlord’s offer to install wall-to-wall carpeting).
When he first moved in, many of the original touches had been removed or updated, but Bill has scavenged many usable pieces from the basement or other units that were being remodeled. Such is the case with the murphy bed. When the bed is closed, all that is visible is a large painted door with a full-length mirror attached. This door does not lower down, as you might expect, but rather pivots horizontally on an axis (remember Abbot & Costello meet Frankenstein?). When the door is flipped completely around, the mattress, secured to the hinged bedframe, can then be lowered down. If the door is only pivoted halfway, the walk-in closet is accessible.
When the bed is lowered, it dominates the small room. It becomes easy to visualize Brigid O’Shaughnessy napping in Spade’s bed, with one hand – and a gun – under the pillow, as she was in chapter ten of the novel.
To one side of the bed is a small desk that acts as a shrine of sorts to both Spade and Hammett. Belonging to Spade is his tinny alarm clock and his copy of Celebrated Criminal Cases of America, by Thomas S. Duke (both mentioned in chapter two), and the black bird itself. The typewriter, of course, represents the one on which Hammett wrote his most famous novel.
“We know that he left his typewriter behind,” Arney explains, referring to when the writer moved to New York in late 1929. “His papers show that everything Hammett wrote up until September of 1929 was written on one typewriter - the last item being a letter to his publisher sent from Post Street, where I now live. The next consecutive item is another letter, written in October of 1929. That is the first item written on another typewriter. Find that San Francisco typewriter and you will have something.”
A bedroom door was also salvaged from elsewhere in the building. Originally caked in countless layers of paint, Bill has since restored the wood finish, as well as replacing the pebbled glass inserts. The kitchen (not photographed, at Bill’s request) is about the size of the desk at which desk I’m typing, containing only a small stove and sink, with a window on the left.
The bathroom is vintage, with a clawfoot bathtub and a floor of tiny hexagon tiles. This is where Spade stripsearched Brigid in chapter 19 (a scene that, sadly, did not make it into the movie!).
So how did Bill originally get involved in this labor of love? Simple. Over a decade ago, he took the Don Herron tour. A few years later, he noticed the Post Street building, which he remembered from the tour, had a vacancy. And now he himself has become part of the tour.
In March of 2005, Friends of Libraries USA recognized Bill’s dedication to restoring Hammett’s old digs by placing a brass plaque on the front of the building. Bill admits he never would have had the apartment ready in time for the ceremony without the help of his neighbor Joe Hagen. To see the the pictures of that day, click here.
And now, on with the tour...
|Hammett lived in the upper right apartment on the fourth floor. The neighborhood is on the border between Nob Hill and the Tenderloin, which is somehow fitting.|
|The gate guarding the front entrance. It's necessary to be "buzzed in."|
|The front doors, as seen from the lobby.|
|The lobby, resembling a Greek temple. The door in the back wall opens into the tiny elevator.|
|The elevator, as seen from the inside.|
|CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE!|