The Most Famous Brothel in the Old West

There are some beautiful, interesting places in this land of ours. The last trip my husband and I made together before he passed was to Cripple Creek. This town is amazing. It’s perched in the high elevation of the Colorado Rockies and history was made when a rancher discovered gold in 1890. That sparked a boom and everyone rushed, seeking their fortune. Within a year the population was 10,000 then swelled to over 25,000.

CrippleCreek

A red-light district sprang up the length of Myers Avenue. It sported 73 saloons and probably as many parlour houses and dance halls.

One of the West’s wildest and most famous houses of ill-repute was The Homestead. It’s still talked about today. The madam was Pearl De Vere. She was a pretty red-haired woman just 31 years old who loved to ride around town in a carriage with red wheels, pulled by a team of black horses. She knew what men wanted and gave it to them—for a hefty price—if they qualified.

The-Old-Homestead

No one could just walk off the street into The Old Homestead. First, they had to apply and state their finances which she thoroughly checked out. Then the gentleman put down a $50 deposit while they waited. That was just to get through the front door. If everything checked out, Pearl arranged an appointment with him. If she approved of him being with her girls, he paid $250 in advance for one night. Her brothel was the place to be.

But Pearl protected her girls who were the most beautiful and talented in the town. She only employed four girls and she made sure they had the best medical care and a checkup every month. She paid them well—they kept 40% of what they brought in—so they could afford the most beautiful clothes, often ordered from Paris. She required them to eat at last two nourishing meals a day of red meat, vegetables and milk. Because being a prostitute was strenuous work and an ill girl made her no money. (The picture below is rumored to be of Pearl, but no one knows for sure. Pearl just didn’t pose for pictures. If this is her, it’s the only one in existence.)

Pearl DeVere

Pearl also furnished The Homestead with the very best. The house had modern everything, electric lights, running water, a bathroom, a telephone and wallpaper imported from Europe. Chandeliers sparkled under the lights. Everything was lavish and opulent and the wealthiest men found it a wonderful, exciting place to be.

The house had four parlors, a music room, dining room, kitchen, and Pearl’s bedroom downstairs. Four bedrooms were above for each of her girls. These pictures are compliments of The Old Homestead website: http://www.oldhomesteadhouse.com/

One of the Parlors

One of the Parlors

Lola' Room OId Homestead

One of the bedrooms

The Cripple Creek authorities taxed each working girl $6 a month and their madam $16. At one time city records listed almost 500 women so the city raked in a ton of money.

From miners to millionaires, the men of Cripple Creek and beyond came to Myers Avenue for a good time. The variety of entertainment could accommodate any size wallet.

And The Homestead was the elite place to be. Under the sparkle of the crystal chandeliers, the wine flowed freely as laughter and music echoed through the walls. Pearl died on June 5, 1897 after attending one of her famous Saturday night soirees where she wore a new $800 dress from Paris. She went to bed at 7 AM and took some morphine to help her sleep. It’s said she overdosed. Even today, Pearl’s is the most well-remembered funeral in Cripple Creek’s history.

If you ever get a chance to visit Cripple Creek, take a trip down Myers Street and find your way to The Old Homestead that is now a museum. You’ll love seeing how these women lived.

I wish I could’ve lived back then and seen this place in its heyday. It would’ve been something. Even today those mines are still producing over a million dollars in gold a year. But sadly Cripple Creek’s population has dwindled. They have several casinos there for tourists who still love this old town. My husband and I enjoyed that trip so much.

If you had lived back then, what would you have thought of Myers Street and Pearl De Vere? Would you have been fascinated by her or avoided any contact?

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Comments

The Most Famous Brothel in the Old West — 17 Comments

  1. Linda- what a wonderful article. I love the town of Cripple Creek. Rob and I have visited it many times. As a matter of fact he & I were talking just Saturday of going back there in a few weeks to see it again. It’s been 5 or more years since we have been there. It’s really a beautiful town with grand history. I love riding the train back up into the mountains and seeing the old mining shacks.
    If I had lived back in those days I would have been fascinated by The Old Homestead and would have wanted to see inside of it, since it had all the amenities that most places didn’t yet offer. I would of loved to have met Pearle just to say I’d visited with the famous Madam.
    If we make our trip we will for sure visit Myer’s street and the museum.

    • Hi Tonya….thanks for coming. I’m glad you enjoyed this. I just love it up there. Maybe you and Rob will get to take another trip up to visit. That would be fun. And you could get in a little gambling too.

      I would’ve loved to have lived in Cripple Creek back then. I think I would’ve tried to find a way to speak to her. From what I’ve read she was very approachable. And she did a lot of charity work. It seems most soiled doves did. Those women had big hearts. While I’m sure some went into the profession on purpose, there were others who got caught in it with no way out. And there wasn’t much work for a woman back then.

      Have a great week! Hugs and much love!

  2. Wonderful post, Linda! Fascinating information. I’d love to visit Cripple Creek and see The Homestead. Great chance to do some research! I’ve always been fascinated by Pearl’s story.

    • Hi Elisabeth…..Thanks for coming over. Cripple Creek is such a wonderful historical place to visit. I loved touring The Homestead and learning about how those ladies lived. Pearl really knew how to run a thriving business AND get the prices she wanted. Amazing. I’d love to go back but I doubt I ever will now because I won’t go alone. My husband loved the casinos there. They didn’t give any huge payouts but if you played and kept winning long enough you could go home with some pretty good money. I like those laid back casinos where you felt no pressure.

      I hope you get to go. Good luck on your new release!!!

  3. Wow! What a great post. Pearl was a very smart business woman and knew how to do it right. If I had lived back then, I most likely would have been fascinated by her, but would have been a little intimidated.

    • Hi Jan….Glad you’re feeling better. And that you liked my post. Cripple Creek was one of the most fun places that Clint and I visited. He had the casinos and I had my history. I even went out to the cemetery but couldn’t find Pearl’s grave. They didn’t have any maps or anything and they’re still burying people in it. I don’t think Pearl would’ve intimidated you. Unless you made her mad. From everything I’ve read about her, she was kindhearted and fun loving. Yes, she really knew how to run a thriving business. I’m amazed at the prices she charged and got. So funny that she made the men fill out an application first. Ha!

      Love you, sister!

  4. As you know, I enjoyed this post, but then I can go to Cripple Creek/Victor pretty much whenever I want. A writer friend “Angel Smits’ wrote a wonderful story “Memory Whispers” based on Cripple Creek and the Homestead House.

    Pearls’ grave is covered with a solid slab of concrete to keep folks from disturbing her resting place. It is in Mt. Pisgah Cemetery. When I go up there again, I’ll take a photo for you Linda. And if you need any others, let me know and I will be glad to do what I can. The story of her funeral can be found it the book by Mable Barbee Lee,”Cripple Creek Days”.

    Doris

    • I hope you don’t mind my sharing the additional information. I guess I’m just passionate about the area. Doris

      • Doris- I loved all the information you gave us about Pearle, me and my husband may be taking a trip up there in a few weeks, we love that town it’s been about four years since we’ve been there, but I promise you thanks to you and Linda I’m going to go visit the old homestead

      • Of course I don’t mind, Doris. I have some books I bought at the Homestead Museum that were really interesting. Pearl was a fascinating woman.

    • Hi Doris……Thanks for coming. Glad to see you. Yes, I read where they now have a slab of concrete over her grave and a granite headstone. I’d love to see it and would appreciate a photo next time you go. I just love that town and the mountain. It’s beautiful. My husband and I went over to Victor and I enjoyed that also. That old hotel is amazing. It was still being used so I couldn’t go any further than the lobby but I loved it.

      Lots of ghosts and a ton of stories up there.

  5. Fantastic information! And I so need to get back to Colorado and explore some more. I like to think I would not have shunned Pearle. I’m super-liberal in my beliefs and try not to be judgemental. The Homestead is definitely on my bucket list now!

    • Hi Tanya……Thanks for stopping by. Always great to see you. I don’t think you’d have shunned Pearl. She was just trying to survive. From all accounts, she treated people well and tried to make her corner of the world better. I would love to have met her.

      Big hugs!

    • They say she died of an accidental ‘morphine’ overdose. Her death is almost as interesting as her life Jacquie, and the house…fabulous.

      • Doris, her death is interesting to say the least. She had an argument with a wealthy gentleman from Denver that night. It’s said she asked him to leave his wife and he refused. I wonder if she threatened to tell his wife about them or something and he killed her with morphine. She was too smart a woman to overdose. The same gentleman upon her death sent $1,000 to pay for her funeral and requested that she be buried in the dress he bought her from Paris. Just too many things don’t add up. I think he killed her. She was a threat.

    • Hi Jacquie……..Thanks for stopping by. Love seeing you. Pearl was way ahead of her time I think. She was big on health care and nutrition and put in place a system to ensure she didn’t have riff-raff in her place.