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BUTTE — The fate of Montana's last operating house of prostitution feels precarious as one tours the museum it's become.
Growing up Mormon in southern Idaho, Travis Eskelsen never expected to be the one to tell those tales, but he's become an expert on Butte vice and the latest to try to save the Dumas. He and partner Michael Piche bought the building and its artifacts for back taxes in They announced plans to restore the building and to operate some of the rooms as a hostel.
Then Piche34, died in January. Eskelsen wrestles with how to go on without him but recently announced he would open the museum for summer tourists and to develop a fundraiser to tackle facade restoration. The Dumas Brothel, which was in business for 92 years — a run longer than any other brothel in the country — and closed inspeaks to Butte's once legendary red-light district. Each shift had working girls inaccording to some s. More: Scarlet stories: Prostitution is an often overlooked side of Great Falls history.
French-Canadian brothers Arthur and Joseph Nadeau opened the brothel inand it's celebrated as a vanishingly rare example of "Victorian brothel architecture," which apparently is a genuine architectural style. Inthe federal government shut down red-light districts to protect World War I soldiers from venereal disease, which in Butte pushed prostitution into cave-like basement rooms where the "women of the line" worked in cribs. Many women took to drugs or drank to cope with their profession.
Suicide was also common Even if the family of the dead could be found, they often refused to claim the body," Jan Macken wrote in "Red Light Women of the Rocky Mountains. In with another war on, the federal government shut down houses of ill repute even those of the best reputation. What that meant for the Dumas was that the passages connecting it with the rest of Butte's underground were closed.
The cribs in the basement were sealed and remain time capsules of misery. The Dumas Brothel became the Dumas Hotel, though its operation was otherwise unchanged. That's also the year the Berkeley Pit shut down, on Earth Day. She let the brothel go, selling the building to Rudy Giecek, who spent 22 years trying to restore the brothel. He created a museum and raised money for the building, which is on the national register of historic places.
But the sailing wasn't smooth. He suffered a burglary of Dumas artifacts in Strokes and diabetes derailed his efforts.
As Giecek's health declined, the demands of the building overwhelmed him. The leaking roof damaged walls, ceilings, plaster and the very structure of the building. The brothel is a favorite for those interested in the paranormal and has been featured on national television programs such as "Ghost Adventures" on the Travel Channel.
Eskelsen has his own theory on Elinore Knott, who is said to haunt the brothel. Officially called the "housekeeper" at the Dumas, the story is that the madam died in by her own hands after being thwarted in love. Eskelsen's theory is her lover would have arrived to whisk her away if she'd just waited a little longer. He muses her death may have involved foul play. It seemed mighty convenient. The brothel is scheduled to be open 11 a. Stop by or call ahead, Online: facebook.
Facebook Twitter. How one man is fighting to save Montana's last brothel. Kristen Inbody Great Falls Tribune.Hookers in Helena Montana
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