Sporting Women and Houses of Ill-Repute – Prostitution and Vice in the Wild West

Prostitution was active along here until the 1950's

The Infamous Blair Street Silverton Colorado

Former Brothel on Blair Street, Silverton Colorado. Now a restaurant and bar

Current traces of the oldest profession (and some old historic photos, too)

Interior of Crib At the Leadville History Museum

Background

In order to write THE BEATEN TERRITORY, I did a lot of research on prostitution throughout the west, and especially in Colorado. Before I even knew that the book would be published, I went on a quest to uncover the remaining relics that I could find. My travels took me around Colorado, Montana, Nevada and California.

Buildings and Houses of Ill-Repute

It is incredibly hard to find the last traces of prostitution in the “Wild West”. In Denver prostitution was made illegal in 1913. Despite being against the law, prostitute did not disappear but was driven underground.  In the mining towns, prostitution lingered on longer and was tolerated in varying degrees. But as the years progressed and sensibilities changed (perhaps), the parlor house buildings were converted into other purposes. In fact, the “cribs” were probably the first face the bulldozers in the name of eradication of vice. Some buildings became boarding houses, others restaurants, saloons and even a Japanese Buddhist temple.

The ‘Girls’ and Sporting Women

As for the “sporting women” themselves, their identities and lives are difficult to trace. Often they used fake names (and changed them often) to hide their identities for a variety of reasons – such as clean starts or to hide their true identities. Often prostitutes did not want word of their profession getting back to the families back east. A sense of shame surrounded their profession.

Real Estate and Wealth

Prostitution generated a lot of money for city coffers. Needless to say, individuals who owned brothels, parlor houses and cribs were not keen to advertise that fact. Often the owners were members of the upper eschelon with reputations to maintain. It would be the rare individual who would admit that one source of their wealth sprang from dirty money.

Interior of the Fortune Club, Victor Colorado