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other pieces of the puzzle fell into place. There, burned into the fireplace mantle, were pyro- graphic designs similar to those on the front door. In the dining room, in a nook, was a freestand- ing sideboard that had been built for the house. It, too, had Art


Deco designs burned into the wood surface. Marlene even had the original dining room table, which was in the Monterey style. Here was a house that had been designed down to the furniture, and it incorporated Art Deco, Mis- sion Revival and Spanish Colonial elements. It wasn’t quite like stepping into King Tut’s tomb, but it was a well-preserved vision of what late 1920s design looked


What does it all mean? The designs burned into Art Deco doors in San Diego in the


late 1920s and early 1930s may just be fanciful amalgamations of ancient symbols and Prohibition Era design motifs. Or they may actually mean something. Some possibilities: Around the window, or “speakeasy,” is usually a variation on


the Primordial Hill, a stepped pyramid shape that can be found in the Pharaohs’ tombs. (No two doors are exactly alike.) The Egyptians believed that a hill rose out of the sea of chaos to create dry land. At the bottom of the door, you’ll sometimes find stylized version of the all-seeing eye, also known as the Eye of Horus. It symbolizes healing and protection. But this might also be the “Eye of Providence,” which can be found on the dollar bill, and the back of the U.S. seal, and in the secret symbols of the freemasons (and they, of course, aren’t talking about what anything means). Both sides of the door are framed by a spiral that resem-


bles the spiral atop Horus’s headdress. (Horus is the leading Egyptian deity.) This spiral also resembles the hieroglyphic for home, although it is more angular in form. In a number of other cultures, such as the Viking, the spiral represents a returning journey, which makes sense for a front door. The pyrographic doors use both positive and negative space


to create designs, so some of the symbols are rather hard to make out. It helps if you look away, squint, take a belt of bootleg liquor, then take another look. Do this enough times and you’ll see the quatrefoil, a medieval design motif, and the fleur-de-lis, or French lily, which represented the holy number three during the 12th century, and today is the symbol for the Boy Scouts. Maybe our mysterious door-maker was an Eagle Scout—and an Egyptologist! If so, he should have earned a merit badge for making pretty things with fire.


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like. It just goes to show you how some influences that we wouldn’t necessarily think belong together actually do. Quite nicely, in fact. As for Marlene’s door, it was too weathered to save the designs, which were fading due to expanding and shrinking of the wood from exposure to moisture, sunlight and oxygen. When the veneer itself is in sufficiently good shape, not


San Diego Uptown News | March 4-17, 2011


cracked, peeling, or falling off, the pyrographic designs can be enhanced or even recreated with stain. The other option, to re- veneer the door and recreate the designs as they were originally done is, well, difficult, since we don’t know how they were originally done. This may be one mystery lost to time. But then again, that’s what they thought about King Tut.u


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