November 6, 2016

Prescott's "Double-Decker" Brothel

Arrow shows the location of the Double-Decker Brothel on Granite Street
 in this 1890 lithograph.

This 1885 photo, taken from the Old Courthouse,
reveals the back of the Double-Decker Brothel.
Before the downtown parking garage was built on Granite Street, the opportunity was taken to make an archeological dig of this portion of the old red-light district. Among several other things, this project unearthed the colorful story of Prescott's only two-story brothel.

In archeology, the prime artifacts are most often found in the areas where the refuge was dumped. As a result, (and speaking of dumps,) the true star of this story is: "The Privy at Prescott's Double-Decker Brothel."

Seems the old "Double Decker" was one of them pricy, high-class type joints. That is, if what they threw in the crapper is any indication...

Surprisingly, ownership of the property was held by at least two citizens of the highest prominence. Of course, it's important to remember that prostitution was legal back then, not being outlawed in Prescott until August 16th, 1913. Although the prostitution industry was still looked upon as being seedy, some entrepreneurs still took advantage of this cash-cow. The Courier reported in 1895 that there were "now over one hundred female denizens," in the red-light district.

From 1872 to 1878, the property was owned by Mr. & Mrs. Hezekiah Brooks. He was Yavapai County's first probate judge. However, the two-story building had not yet been built.

That was accomplished by Mary "Annie" Hamilton, who was one of the only owners of a brothel property who wasn't an absentee. The 1880 census listed her as "housekeeper" and the six other women residents were specifically listed as "prostitutes."

In 1889, the two-story building was purchased by Morris Goldwater. He was mayor of Prescott; Exalted Ruler of the local B.P.O. Elks; he spearheaded the installation of Prescott's infrastructure; and was named "Prescott's Man of the Century" on her 100th Anniversary in 1964.


The story of Morris Goldwater and his oversight of the early development of Prescott; turning the backwater mining town into a civilized city.



Curiously, the property changed hands four times in a single day: February 8th, 1879. Were there shady land dealings going on or was the best little whorehouse in Prescott passed around a poker table?

A probable well was found on the lot, but archaeologists did not have enough time to excavate it completely to be entirely sure. A wood framed rectangular box measuring slightly over 5 x 7 feet and 45 inches deep marked the opening.  The well "contained a number of liquor bottles, most of which had been broken...when they were dropped or pushed in" to the well.

Three feet to the west of the well, a mysterious pit lined with cobbles was uncovered. It measured 8.7 x 6.5 feet and was 3.7 feet deep. The cobblestones were clearly placed together to form this pit, but the archeological team could not even offer a hint as to its function. Indeed, no one does know, but this author couldn't help but notice the dimensions of this "pit" were roughly the same as a modern hot-tub (and the well was only three feet away.) Very few artifacts were found inside this pit; just a few earthenware sherds and some broken glass.


True story of the grip of opium upon Prescott, Arizona. Eventually, the city would become a hub of manufacture for the drug.


Then there was "Feature 32." The scientific report described: "The feature's fill was mottled, dark gray brown loosely compacted sand that contained some clay and yellowish green somewhat clumpy clayey silty sand. Occasional layers of a white chalky substance, probably lye, were present."

Yes, that would be the privy.

One discovery in this feature was of one unlucky patron's lost hat. Exactly how he lost his headwear in such a place, or way--the world will never know. Yet in spite of this eternal mystery, the team worked painstakingly to restore it.

Another intriguing artifact was a fragment of a highly designed and expensive looking porcelain doll head. (The 1880 Census also recorded two children living at the brothel: an 8 year-old boy and a 2 year-old girl.) One wonders if the little girl was the original owner. She must have been devastated when the doll broke.

Newspaper ad.
Additionally, pharmaceutical items were found.

There were several bottles of "Hamlin's Wizard Oil." An analysis of this wonder drug showed that it contained 55% alcohol, 40% camphor oil, and 5% ammonia!

Advertising claimed: "It is also certain a cure for rheumatism, sprains, lame back, diarrhea, cramps, chalice, frost bite, burns and scalds."


Newspaper ad.
There were several brown bottles of "Hosteler's Stomach Bitters" which contained the same amount of alcohol as two beers. It was advertised to cure "sour risings, vomiting, poor appetite, heartburn, dyspepsia, indigestion, colds, grippe," and more.

Newspaper ad.
Many used bottles of "Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound" were recovered. This concoction was widely advertised and used for the discomforts of the menstrual cycle and "all FEMALE WEAKNESSES."

Ironically, although Lydia E. Pinkham was widely involved in the temperance movement, her "vegetable compound" was 40 proof!


Also found in the "bowels" of this feature were items of personal hygiene. There were worn-out hairbrushes and toothbrushes. They apparently used Van Busker's Fragrant Sozodont for their teeth and breath, as well as Colgate products.

Empty perfume bottles (Lubin Perfumer Paris, and Hoyt's German cologne) were found.

Interestingly, several bottles of "Batchelor's Liquid Hair Dye No. 2" were also recovered.

Indeed, the workers at the Double Decker wanted to look and smell their best.


Perhaps the most interesting items recovered were the personal ones. There was a well-decorated chamber-pot that suffered a broken handle. There was an expensive English majolica pitcher and a Staffordshire covered dish. "Several pieces of English china or porcelain were recovered."

Many of these items could only be owned by people in the upper-middle class or higher. The archeological team noted that these items "do denote access to and ability to pay for what were relatively expensive items and the appreciation for the finer things in life."

Indeed, the Double Decker was one of the finer brothels and perhaps the most prominent landmark in the red-light district.

But, alas, like most of the rest of downtown, the building burned to the ground in the Great Fire of 1900...


SOURCE:
Celestials and Soiled Doves: The Archeology and History of Lots 4-9, Block 13 of Historic Prescott's Original Townsite -- The Prescott City Centre Project. By Michael S. Foster, John M. Lindly and Ronald F Ryde. SWCA Cultural Resource Report No. 03-386; March, 2004.


Tourist Tip:
The next time you are in one of the local public libraries, crack open the above book. For its genre, it is a well written work. Sure, there are the obligatory sections of scientific wonkiness, but the narrative of the historic overview, (chapter 3,) is particularly readable, even occasionally flashing a dry sense of humor.

Of additional interest to most are the dozens of color photographs of the artifacts and scenes from the dig in progress. It is well worth the time.

#PrescottAZHistory




Follow Drew Desmond on Google+ for Blog Postings

Follow the Prescott AZ History Blog on Twitter @PrescottAZHist

Drew Desmond is on Facebook