The day was busy. Photographers working on a shoot downtown needed some Denton-centric props. While they were busy setting the scene for the shot, I stopped by our Discover Denton Visitor Center.
The day was busy in the Visitor Center, too. I overheard a group of three young women asking one of our Visitor Center staff if she knew about the purple door. She was stumped, so I decided to join the conversation to see if I could help.
“Which purple door exactly are you trying to find?” I asked in a manner that might have implied purple doors are a Denton norm.
“The purple door,” one of the girls replied. “The Infamous Purple Door of Denton.” She held out her phone to show me an artsy picture of, you guessed it, a purple door.
I studied the image intently, searching my memory archives for any recollection about an important purple door. “No result matches your search,” my brain relayed back.
So I studied longer. Nothing in the picture gave a hint as to where the door was located. Just the worn purple door set in a gray concrete wall with a little metal ladder hanging below the door, leading somewhere below the photo’s frame.
“We drove all the way to Denton from Garland to find the door and take our picture in front of it,” the girl said. “It’s what people do. Finding it is part of the game, but we’ve looked everywhere, and don’t see it.”
By this time, a couple of locals among the shoppers and another staff member had eased over with interest. We were passing the girl’s phone around, everyone perusing for a clue to the door’s location.
“Are you sure it is an outside door?” someone asked.
“Maybe it’s way up high,” another suggested, noting the ladder.
“Maybe it’s not really in Denton,” yet another offered.
“But it is,” the girl stated emphatically as she opened Google on her phone. She typed in “purple door denton” and just like that, scores of references and pictures populated her little screen. “My friend said it is just off the Denton square, like behind the buildings.”
I pointed out the window to the purple Opera House building across the square. We all agreed it made sense to begin the search for a purple door at a purple building. The girls thanked us and headed in that direction.
The purple door is a Denton “thing.” Visitors knew about a legitimate attraction of which we were completely unaware. I was incredulous. We, the Denton experts, had to learn about its mysterious lure and location. A quest was born.
I started by looking for the door, to no avail. So, I started asking around. I talked to some life-long Dentonites, a few Denton artists, and people in the know about Denton quirks and history. I showed all of them the picture the young lady had shown me, each one studying it with the same interest and intensity I had. Remarkably, not one person on my go-to list knew about the purple door phenomenon.
I turned to Google and did some deeper digging. I found many pictures of the door on sites like Flickr and Pinterest. I found blogs where people celebrated finding the door while never stating its exact whereabouts.
Then I stumbled upon a We Denton Do It blog from last year about the best photography spots in Denton. Top of their list? The purple door. And there was just enough geography in that blog to guide me.
I found it. It is a door. It is purple. It has a ladder. The wall adjacent to it also boasts a quasi-new mural that wasn’t part of the image in the visitor’s picture or any I came across while researching. It is in a most non-descript, off-the-beaten-path little ally-like cubby north of the square. (Hint: a bird in the mural wears a purple hat). And it’s a thing!
How something becomes a thing that will entice three girls to drive nearly an hour one way just to take a picture is one of the most spectacular mysteries of the tourism industry. Had we decided to make the purple door a thing, it likely never would have been. But organically, Denton has this hidden draw – the purple door photo op.
The Garland girls taught us something that day, and I hope they found the door and got their picture. From now on, we’ll know how to add clues for purple-door-searching visitors.
No spoilers here. I won’t ruin the game. But, find the purple door, snap a pic and post it to social media with the hashtag #discoverdenton and tag us! Maybe your image will end up on our social media feed.