Sunday, March 12, 2017

Day 27: Baldpate Inn’s Famous Key Collection

Baldpate Inn hosts the world’s largest public collection of keys! How did this come about?

Author Earl Derr Biggers, circa 1911
One famous Baldpate legend states that during the construction of the Inn, author Earl Derr Biggers visited and was astounded to see that this very real place was exactly what he had imagined when writing his romantic melodrama mystery novel, The Seven Keys to Baldpate. The story Biggers wrote was about seven people who all believed they had the only key to an inn that was closed for the winter. The book was a success and also prompted many film versions.  (More to come on this in future blogs!)

After opening in 1917, The Baldpate Inn gave away keys to guests, as a souvenir and clever tie into its namesake novel.  However, due to the economy of the day, including World War I and The Depression, it became cost-prohibitive to give out keys. So, the tradition was turned around and guests began donating keys! 

Guests strove to donate the most unique and rare keys. Earl Derr Biggers even donated the “original” key to The Baldpate Inn.  The collection currently includes historic keys to Fort Knox, Mozart’s wine cellar, Frankenstein’s castle, a submarine, a side gate of Buckingham Palace, the key to the first bank robbed by Frank and Jesse James, and thousands more. There are also many very clever and inventive “keys” such as keys to a grand piano, and a “mon-key.” From the curious to the curator, this key collection is sure to delight!

The Key Room at The Baldpate Inn
In the early days of the collection, when there were only about 7,000 keys, a guest asked where all the thousands of keys had come from. Upon being told by the Mace family that guests had left them, she responded with a disgusted tone, “My, aren’t people forgetful?”

Visitors are still encouraged to become part of the rich history of The Baldpate Inn’s famous Key Collection, by donating a key of their own. Come visit, donate a key, and be a part of this unique history!

Today, the collection boasts more than 30,000 keys and growing! You can read more about unique keys, their history and legends in our Key Room Blog


Photo of historic display of keys

The "Key" to the photo above is as follows:
  1. “Key to Good Health.” 
  2. Key from Clarence Darrow, of Scopes Trial fame.
  3. Key from Earl Derr Biggers
  4. Key to Old Southern Bank of Kentucky, the first bank robbed by Frank & Jesse James
  5. Key to Fort Knox
  6. Key to Jack Benny’s Dressing Room at Paramount Studios
  7. Key to room occupied by Edgar Allen Poe while a student at the University of Virginia, Room #13.
  8. Turn-key

My favorite key has always been “the world’s smallest key,” and it is about as big as a grain of rice. What is your favorite key?
Written by Liz Rodgers

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