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Doorway made from book spines

The entry to 1751 West Belmont leads to Monastery Hill Bindery.

Photograph: Angela Mejia

Q A door at 1751 West Belmont is made out of the spines of dozens of classic books. But there’s no indication what the door leads to. What’s in that building? I’m dying to know.—Alex, Little Village

A Long before high-school students were (not) reading Moby-Dick off their Kindles, the spine-y entryway featuring volumes by the likes of Poe and Tolstoy led the way to Monastery Hill Bindery. Founded in 1868 and located downtown until the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the company constructed its current building at the turn of the 20th century. The door was put up around 1933, as a marketing tool to display examples of Monastery Hill’s work at that time. “They’re not actual books,” explains operations manager Jim O’Donnell. “War and Peace, Abe Lincoln by Carl Sandburg and several Jane Austen and Charles Dickens novels were replicated with wood and painted.” Because of its old age, the door requires a little upkeep, O’Donnell says. “It’s been updated due to weathering, and people walk by and touch it all the time.”

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