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The Dumas Brothel
|Location||45 East Mercury Street
|Part of||Butte-Anaconda Historic District (#66000438)|
The Dumas Brothel (AKA the Dumas Hotel) is an infamous bordello in Butte, Montana located in the United States. In the heart of Uptown Butte's historic district, the Dumas Brothel is America's longest-running house of prostitution, operating for an astounding 92 years.
The Dumas was built in 1890 during the Victorian era as a high-class parlor house. It is the only example of the "Victorian Brothel" style architecture remaining in the United States today. The main building features three stories, each with a distinct layout and true to their original design. The upper floor has an interior gallery (balcony) which "looks down" onto the main floor below, revealing two large vaulted skylight's above. The Dumas has a total of 43 rooms, ranging from posh suites and grand parlors, to bare-bone "cribs" -tiny rooms with space only for a bed and scarce amenities.
In 1912, a single story addition was constructed at the rear of the Dumas, creating eight (8) additional "cribs" to take advantage of the ever growing male population that arose from Butte's mining boom. This addition opens directly onto the century old brick-lined alley known historically as "Pleasant Alley," and later, "Venus Alley" -an area that was the heart of Butte's Red-Light district, and often referred to as the "Twilight Zone" among locals. Lush courtyard style "terraces" such as "Fashion Terrace" and "Model Terrace" adjoined the alley, a storied place where vice thrived and clandestine underground tunnels connected the red-light district to Butte's business corridor, allowing clients and working girls to escape the area in the event of a police raid.
The Dumas (pronounced doo-muhs) was the first (and strangely enough, is the last) "house of ill-repute" built along East Mercury street in 1890. Until 1982, it was the largest, grandest and most widely recognized bordello among many situated in Butte's red-light district. The Dumas is a registered National Historic Landmark listed in the 1970s and part of the larger Butte-Anaconda Historic District.
A vast wealth of copper and other metals was extracted from the Butte Hill, giving the town its appropriate and proud title, "The Richest Hill on Earth". The miners of Butte and others of all classes frequented both the saloons and brothels.
In its first half-century, 1890–1942, the Dumas used all 43 of its rooms. Since miners worked round the clock so, too, did the staff of the brothel; during busy times, weekends and paydays, the brothel ran three shifts of girls.
The prostitution business at the Dumas Brothel was officially shut down in 1982 for income tax violations, when the last Madam Ms. Ruby Garrett, was indicted for income tax evasion. In 1989 the Dumas Brothel was purchased by Rudy Giecek, a local man who believed in the importance of preserving the building and its history.
From 1999 to 2001, the Dumas was affiliated with the International Sex Worker's Foundation for Art, Culture, and Education, or ISWFACE.
By 2005, the Dumas Brothel Museum was closed due to the financial constraints and ill health of the buildings longtime owner. The Dumas Brothel Museum reopened in 2008 after a former patron and benefactor donated $25K dollars to replace the building's failing roof.
In June of 2012, Michael Piche and Travis Eskelsen purchased the Dumas Brothel from Rudy Giecek with the foremost goal being the restoration of the building, which was found in critical condition and in jeopardy of being lost to history, barring immediate stabilization, which is now underway.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
- Mary Murphy, "Women on the Line: Prostitution in Butte, Montana, 1878-1917" (Master's Thesis, University of North Carolina, 1982)
- "Montana - Properties". Visitmt.com. Retrieved 2012-01-06.
- "Threatened Places: Dumas Brothel". Butte CPR. 2007-07-13. Retrieved 2012-01-06.
- Johnson, Kirk (2005-05-30). "Butte Journal - Dark Days for a Reminder of the Wild, Wild West in Montana - NYTimes.com". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-01-06.