The Dumas Brothel Museum

The Dumas Hotel is what remains of a once-thriving area of "commerce" in old Butte that was almost as lucrative as the mines. Authorities turned a blind eye to gambling and prostitution in this district. It allowed miners a place to vent their enthusiasms and empty their pockets, keeping them broke enough to apply themselves to their work during their shifts in the mines.

Here was "The Line," Butte's Red Light District, which included this block of Mercury Street and Galena Street one block to the north.

Designed by the French and French Canadian Nadeau Investment Company, the buildings opened into a discreet alley, known as Venus Alley, where hundreds of prostitutes plied their trade from rooms or from spaces in the walls called "cribs" that were equipped with callboxes for ordering drinks or food from nearby bars and noodle parlors. Evidence of these cribs can be seen in the narrow doorways of the building across the street from the Dumas. One place alone, The Casino, employed 100 girls.

Pimps and whores followed the miners to Butte from all corners of the earth. Prostitutes usually went by generic names such as Jew Jess or Mexican Maria and their pimps were referred to as "John McGuimps" or "secretaries," a more refined epithet that was peculiar to Butte.

More sensitive to the rights of working people than to those who exploited them, the local police were especially hard on pimps and would often run them out of town when they were identified.Room 15 in the Dumas

Parlor houses that rimmed the block like the Dumas were built for more discriminating clients. The Dumas was designed with tall windows facing the street so customers could examine the "merchandise" before stepping in the door. The Dumas continued to operate as a roost for "soiled doves" until 1982. That's no typo either. The Dumas was shut down in 1982 when madam Ruby Garrett's parlor house was finally shut down for violations of federal income tax laws.

Charlie Chaplin, who came to Butte to perform during his vaudeville days, took away many vivid memories of Butte's Red Light District. He commented later in his autobiography about the unusual beauty and variety of the women who worked there. Up on the corner of Galena and Wyoming stood the Copper Block, which served as the main office for the Nadeau Investment Company. It was also where many of the girls on the Line lived and picked up their mail.

In later years, the Stockman Bar on the ground floor of the Copper Block was run by "Dirty Mouth" Jean Sorenson. Old timers tell how she could outcuss a muleskinner if any man was foolish enough to mistreat the girls. Some patrons still remember the petrified walrus penis she kept behind the bar as a sap. She went to prison after she shot a man in the bar. She was released early. They say she got time off for good behavior because she was "good with the girls" at the Women's Prison in Billings.

For details about what is going on in the Dumas these days, check out their web site at:

http://www.thedumasbrothel.com

        
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