What would these hotel "cabinets" have been used for?

Last night I saw Bruce Springsteen live up in Seattle. (Hell of a show, but that’s a topic for another thread.) As I usually do when I see a show in Seattle, I stayed overnight in a hotel a few blocks away. This time, I stayed at a boutique-ish place called the Marqueen. It’s a delightful brick building that’s nearly 100 years old, was once an engineering school, is supposedly haunted (though I’ve yet to encounter any ghosts while staying there), and feels like it should cost three times as much as it actually does. Being as old a building as it is, it’s got its fair share of quirks and relics of old fixtures that don’t work anymore, and that’s the topic of this thread.

In the hallway, I noticed that next to each one of the room doors was a little cabinet door a few feet high secured with a latch. On the inside of my room, just inside the door, was a similar door the same size. I opened the door on the inside and it was just an empty cabinet with a shelf in the middle. The door that opened to the hallway had been sealed up from the inside, so whatever purpose it must once have served, they obviously aren’t used for it anymore.

Here’s some pictures to illustrate what I’m talking about;

Cabinet door next to the room door in the hallway

Cabinet door inside the room

Cabinet interior from inside the room, showing that the outer door has been sealed shut

Any idea what these would have been used for? The simple explanation is that they would have been used to pass something from outside the room to the inside (or vice versa) without having to leave it in the hall or knock on the door and bother the occupant, but I’ve never heard of such a practice before. Would these have been used for food? Laundry? Garbage? Anyone ever seen something like this before, or have any idea what they’re used for or what they’re called?

Ice delivery? My apartment has things like this, but they’re higher up and wider.

Chamber pots?

I’ve seen them. They were for laundry. You piled it in there, the hotel picked it up, then delivered the clean stuff. Notice that the cabinet is large enough to hold a suit on a hangar.

I syuppose they could have been used for room service, as well, but I know about the laundry part.


You would put your shoes in the cabinet at night and an attendant would shine them and return them by the morning.

Well, if not for the shelf in the middle it would be.

The hotel in question does offer drycleaning service, but I don’t own anything fancy enough to be drycleaned so I have no idea how they deliver it to you after it’s done.

When I was in college I lived in an apartment building that was built in the 1930’s and had these openings into the hallway. Inside in the kitchen there was an 18" square opening at about kitchen counter height in an interior wall that dropped into the space behind the small door. I always thought this space was for a trashcan that could be emptied without entering the apartment.

Smapti, I’m curious about the building you saw this in. In my building there was center hallway and EVERY room on both sides of the hallway had a door to the hallway. AND I think every room had a door connecting to the next. I guess different size apartments could be set up depending which doors remained locked. Did you see anything like this multi-door arrangement?

Didn’t see anything like that, but my room was a suite that was set off to a side of the building and didn’t have other rooms adjacent to it. It’s possible the regular rooms had an arrangement like that, but I’ve only stayed in the suites there (Expedia gets me a free upgrade to the suite at this hotel through their rewards program). All of the rooms had the little cabinet next to the door, though.

Another oddity, though - inside the suite, there’s a door that leads from the hall at the front of the room into the “bedroom”, even though the bedroom itself only has three walls and the fourth side opens right up into the sitting area. I suppose it’s possible that the suite was once two separate rooms and they knocked down part of the wall between them at some point.

I don’t know about this particular hotel you patronised, but some of them wash and change the sheets: this could be for storage of clean linens.