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The Eye of the World Museum

Next time you find yourself in an office building, or end up in an old movie theater or restaurant, try to spot the exits you would have otherwise ignored. Take note of the inconspicuous doorways no one seems to use––the ones that remain closed or lead to a darkened room, concealing some unknown space.

What's behind them? What are they hiding? There could be entire worlds back there, rarely seen and known to only a few who dare step past the threshold.

You can find one such door in Beaumont, situated at the south end of the Lone Star Steakhouse. Leading just beyond the "Cedar Room," it's a narrow, two-foot-wide passageway over which hangs a subtle placard that reads simply "Museum."

The room it leads to is by no means a secret and the owners aren't trying to keep anyone out, but if you weren't already aware of its existence, you probably wouldn't take notice. Like most people, you'd eat your sirloin, finish off the baked potato and leave. (Being sure to drop a generous tip, of course.)

But if you ask someone to flip on the light for you, they'll be more than happy to show you the wonders within, to introduce you to the Eye of the World.

Taking up the full length of a 27-foot-long display case, it's a remarkably detailed, hand-carved display of… well, almost everything. Created by "Poppa" John Gavrelos, a Greek immigrant and career restaurateur, the display includes the Parthenon, the Statue of Liberty, the Tower of Babel and an assortment of other meticulously constructed scale architecture.

Scattered throughout, you'll discover small, wooden people and scenery of various sizes, a whittled, glass-enclosed Lilliput. Along the front edge reside even more characters – nine yards of tiny tableaus, miniature scenes from the Bible depicting every story you've ever heard and probably some you haven't. At one end is little Noah building his Ark; at the other, a teeny Jesus carries his Popsicle cross.

According to the John Gavrelos who now runs the steakhouse––the artist's namesake and great nephew––"Poppa" Gavrelos worked on these scenes for 25 years. From 1923 to 1948, he carved his models from whatever timber he had on hand, mostly plywood and vegetable crates.

Pieces have gone on display recently at other museums, but before that, none of it had been touched for nearly 40 years. Even today, it's just as it was when it was placed in the room in 1953, having been arranged exactly according to Gavrelos's specifications. "He wanted everything just right," said John. "He was very particular."

Weird Texas


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