Travel notes: the ‘Servidor’ or the ‘Coffin Hotel Door’

After I stayed at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City in May, I wrote a little review of my experience, and the most interesting comment was posted below it, just today. I had wondered: what’s with the door? I had never seen a door like this in a hotel… Considering that it’s not a particularly attractive feature in a bizarre and rundown hotel, I assumed it was something negative.

But no, I am informed, and I love when my assumptions are challenged. This is a fine example of the little-known Servidor, or Coffin Door, found only in the most luxurious hotels in New York City in the 20s!

This article explains that Hotel Syracuse, opened in 1924, had them (and still have some of them). And the Hotel Pennsylvania, apparently grand in its original days, also had them.

Apparently, they were a security feature that allowed guests to leave their drycleaning in the compartment behind the door, which could be picked up without the guests having to open or unlock the full door. It could also be used for mail, cigars and packages. And served as natural ventilation with vents at the top and bottom.

Check out this fantastic brochure from the Servidor company from 2017; I would assume they would have been horrified that they also became known as Coffin Doors.

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8 Responses to Travel notes: the ‘Servidor’ or the ‘Coffin Hotel Door’

  1. Carri says:

    I have seen these in two historic hotels in Milwaukee….. and had several arguments on their purpose – laundry or ventilation. Funny to find they were used for both. Thanks so much for the research!

    • andyq says:

      That’s so great that you found the information amusing! I was inspired by Steven, from his comments on my review of the Hotel Pennsylvania, to look up servidors and find out what they were about. To the modern eye, they really do look strange…

  2. Bill Coilson says:

    I just stayed at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York (Feb. 2020). The hotel has been fixed up somewhat. The Servidor was in my door, from 1919. The door itself has a modern magnetic key lock. Framed inside my room was an old brochure describing how ‘milady’ can use the door. I thought it was very cool.

  3. Andy G,

    I have about 15-20 of these doors from the historic Wade Park Hotel in Cleveland Ohio. The building is now a retirement Community Called Judson Manor. We have been renovating the building floor by floor and have accumulated a lot of these doors. I have them in storage and would love to find someone with some interest in them. In your time writing the article and since then, has anyone asked “Where can i get some of those doors?”

  4. Anne says:

    We just re-watched the movie “What’s up Doc”, that took place in San Francisco, and the hotel room doors had these “servidors”. They were using them for pressing and dry cleaning.

  5. Alfred DiCarlo says:

    I am looking for a key that will open the hall side coffin door. Does anybody know how to find one?

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