Cripple Creek Colorado
Old Homestead Museum
Several people have reported the presence of three female spirits,
former residents at the Old Homestead.
Old Homestead is an authentic slice of history, accurately portraying what a high-class bordello for the wealthy looked like, and what life and work there was like.
Tom and I got to visit and take the tour of this interesting bordello museum. It is a small, two story brick structure with no wasted space. As a top notch pleasure palace, it offered all the items and customs, cultural perks, meals, and drinks for the powerful men who made Cripple Creek a thriving city.
It was modeled after Parisian pleasure palaces such as the Trois Moulins in Paris. Everything was tailored for the richest of the rich, who could afford the stiff price to enter and indulge.
To make sure that potential clients were of good character and financially sound, would-be patrons had to prove that they had money and provide personal recommendations. As long as the Homestead Parlor House was in operation, no woman was beaten or killed, and everyone paid what was owed.
Once in awhile a girl became pregnant. People in this line of work knew abortion methods. If the child was born, it was given to the orphanage run by the sisters of the Catholic faith, who found a new home for the baby. Eventually, a pregnant prostitute challenged this in court and was allowed to keep her baby.
As the visitor walks inside, there is a small foyer and a hall for the entrances of three parlors on the first floor. The first roped off parlor is clearly visible from the hallway.
There are unique antiques, like a cigarette dispenser shaped like the head of a girl, who gives the customer a cigarette out of her mouth when a lever is pressed. A red antique couch and chairs includes a female mannequin dressed in typical fancy attire, while a male mannequin dressed in his finery, wears a top hat.
A door hanging made up of tied lengths of material gives privacy for the girls in the first parlor. The second parlor is a music room, where men and the girls could dance, using an old Edison Phonograph, complete with a large morning-glory speaker. There is also a piano where a hired musician could play music to inspire activity upstairs. Antiques in this second parlor include teakwood tables, old paintings, and banquet lamps.
The third parlor is a large entertainment room, and openly connects to the second parlor. It has a fireplace, a fancy, antique liquor cabinet, and a gambling table from Johnny Nolan’s Saloon on Bennett Street.
There is a stunning Pier mirror; elegant for this era, and crystal alcohol lamps over the fireplace. The wallpaper was chosen by Madam Pearl DeVere, who imported it from Europe.
In the very back of the house on the first floor was the kitchen and eating area for the girls and the Madam. The girls were hand-picked by Pearl DeVere, and the successor Madam, for their beauty. Just teenagers, they were probably in bad shape financially before joining the Old Homestead Parlor. They got a finishing school experience, were well fed, well paid for their sex work, and eventually most were married to rich clients who took them away from this frowned-on occupation.
The young ladies, the fairest in Cripple Creek, ranged in age from fourteen to eighteen years, and were well-schooled by Miss Pearl about proper etiquette and cleanliness. Pearl taught them the importance of seeing a doctor once a month, the proper attire to be worn, and all the social graces.
They were well-prepared to act like women of higher status than they were born into. They wore fine gowns, and went shopping once a week during times and on outings set up just for them, when no one else was there. Kindness was shown to them by the townspeople.
Each young working lady had her own personal room for herself and one for entertaining clients. There were four rooms and a personal room for the Madam herself, who also worked alongside the girls. Instead of small cribs, each girl had her own regular bed in her room as well as other items found in high class women’s bedrooms: “a dresser, changing screen, and large bed and a large trunk that could be secured with a lock, for their personal items.”
When a client entered the establishment, if he could not decide on a particular girl, he was sent to a strategically placed viewing room with a large window that oversaw the parlor where all the girls were waiting.
Once the client decided on a girl, she would be brought up to a window in a viewing room that looked into a bathroom that had a tub. The chosen girl would take off her clothes, so the client could see the complete package. To prevent lookie-loos, payment was made up front and was non-refundable.
Pearl held “parties” to bring in clients, and charged them $250 a night to sleep with the girls. If a rich patron was willing to spend the $250 rate, each young woman would take off her clothes and bathe in front of the viewing window, so what was offered with each girl was on full display.
It was a meat market to be sure, but it was part of surviving in Cripple Creek for destitute teenaged girls. The x-rated lifestyle got them through a hard time and exposed them to potential husbands who might be willing to marry someone of their profession. Some teens were indeed fortunate and ended up married. Others aged out and remained prostitutes, stuck in a profession that was hard to quit.
The Old Homestead Museum structure is the last of the old parlor houses still standing that once existed along Myers Avenue.
Pearl De Vere, the founder of Old Homestead Brothel, began her life as Eliza Martin in October of 1857, one of five children of John and Nancy Martin in Indiana. In the 1870s, she moved to Denver, and jumped into the prostitution profession, under the name Mrs. Martin. Her family thought she was working as a hat maker (also known as a milliner).
In 1887, Isabel Martin moved to El Paso County in Colorado. She married Albert Young in 1887, but they lived apart. Perhaps he thought she would give up her profession. She must have felt abandoned and unsupported.
She may have had his baby, or a baby that was the result of her line of work. Whatever the case, she gave up her baby for adoption, which was what society expected her to do. She dyed her hair red, and began to wear fine clothes and jewelry.
In 1893, Isabel Martin moved to Cripple Creek, where the demand for prostitutes was high. She changed her name to Pearl De Vere and started her own Parlor House. De Vere had purchased a small frame house on Myers Avenue, from which her business would operate.
“She was described as being 31 years of age at the time, with red hair and a slender build, and was a pretty woman. She also was said to have been a good businesswoman, strong willed, and smart.”
She tried marriage again and married C. B. Flynn, a wealthy miller, in 1895, who accepted what she did for a living. After only a year of marriage, a disaster ended this marriage. After the horrendous fire of 1896 that destroyed much of downtown Cripple Creek, including Flynn’s mill and Pearl’s brothel, Flynn accepted a position as a smelter in Monterrey, Mexico. Pearl wouldn’t go with him. A second marriage was down the drain.
Instead, De Vere, together with Neil McClusky, Laura Evans, and Lola Lingston erected the Old Homestead. This sturdy, brick building would have no wasted space, and became the perfect venue for what it would have inside, a high-class parlor house for gentlemen of means.
Pearl had a dream that would avoid many of the dangers of prostitution. She wanted this new pleasure palace to draw only the wealthiest men of good character, not jerks who didn’t pay, or who would beat up the girls. Only the finest decor was planned, with “lavish carpets, hardwood furniture, and electric lamps.”
Running water and bathrooms were installed. There were two bathtubs with running water and indoor toilets as well. Pearl was a good businesswoman, and knew how to increase profitable activity. She held parties to bring in clients, and charged $250 per night if they wanted to spend the night with a chosen girl.
Catering to the most prosperous men in Cripple Creek, her parlor house soon became the most successful in town.
Pearl was a generous employer as she took good care of her girls, paid them well, and worked out a deal with local business and the city to let her girls go shopping at a time and day when no one else would be there to bother them.
She was generous to widows or people in need, making many friends amongst the folks of Cripple Creek. When she died, her sister came to claim her body, making the long trip from Chicago. But when she found out what Pearl did for a profession, she was disgusted and returned to Chicago, leaving Pearl’s remains in Cripple Creek without any money to bury her.
The townspeople were incensed at the behavior of Pearl’s sister, but their donated funds weren’t quite enough to bury her. It was suggested that her $800 gown be sold to make up the difference needed. Fortunately, the Denver gentleman who bought her the gown requested that she be buried in it, and donated $1,000 to cover the costs.
She had the most lavish funeral procession in Cripple Creek’s history. All the bands in town played the appropriate somber tunes on the way to the cemetery, while practically everyone in the town came to watch, either out of respect, or from just plain curiosity. After her burial, they continued to play while heading back into town, eventually lightening the mood and making it more of a celebration by playing more upbeat tunes including, ‘There’ll be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.’
After Pearl died, the Old Homestead was sold at auction to Hazel Vernon, a Madam, who became the new owner in 1899. When new ordinances against prostitution were passed at the turn of the century, the Old Homestead was registered as a boarding house, and its girls were the tenants.
This ploy worked for awhile. Old Homestead offered sexual services until 1917. Prostitution ended here as a business because the state of Colorado “enacted a law in 1915 making houses of prostitution illegal. It allowed for these businesses to be raided and the building was locked up for a year. An owner could have the building unlocked by promising not to allow prostitution there again.”
Old Homestead became a boarding house in 1917, as a lack of housing in Cripple Creek had been an age-old problem. In 1940, a brothel was opened up again for a short while before it was raided. At some point, it became a private residence and remained so for many years.
In 1957, the owners discovered many original items that they wished to share with tourists and town folk. In June of 1958, the residence opened as a brothel museum, under the name of Old Homestead. As of 2021 the Old Homestead is owned by a non-profit organization.
Just a few years later, Old Homestead and the historic downtown buildings were given some protection when “the core of the historic town – both commercial and residential buildings – was declared a National Historical Landmark in 1961.”
They got more solid protection when The Cripple Creek Historic District was listed on “the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.”
When the owners of Bronco Billy’s came to town and wanted to buy one side of the historic old town, they were restricted in that they couldn’t tear down the existing buildings. As of 2021, they are busy building a 300 room gambling building that must look like the rest of the downtown structures.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
When a beloved structure is restored to what it once was, with the possessions of former residents and the furniture they used, it can draw back spirits who were attached to the way the structure was, as they have good memories of it.
Custer House, ND (When the Custer House was reconstructed, and all the possessions of the family were put on display as well, the Custer family, their relatives and the officers who worked there came back to enjoy once more their memories here; trying to forget their untimely ends).
Hartford Twain House Museum, CT (When the house was completely restored and their personal items were put on display, the Mark Twain Family moved back in along with their servants).
Mary Washington House Museum, VA (The spirit of Mary Washington became active when her beloved retirement home was restored and turned into the Mary Washington House Museum, putting on display some of her favorite possessions).
Old Homestead House Museum, CO (The Old Homestead was home for the prostitutes who once lived there where they enjoyed acceptance, job perks, and love. Three spirits of female prostitutes were drawn back, to a place where they had been happy to find peace for their restless souls. Perhaps their lives didn’t end so well, or perhaps they died early).
(The spirit of Pearl must be very pleased that her labor of love has been restored, and displayed as her pleasure palace. She can’t help herself and has become active too).
When a prostitute suffered a broken heart, she sometimes killed herself. Suicide often leads to restless souls who find that they can’t find peace, even as a spirit.
The Palace Hotel, WA (When the Lady in Blue was promised marriage by a gentleman, she killed herself when he had second thoughts and broke it off).
Copper Queen Hotel, AZ (A house prostitute fell in love with a gentleman who changed his mind about marrying her. She killed herself).
The Dumas Brothel, MT (Madam Elenore Knot and her beloved, a married businessman, planned to run away together but he lost his nerve and never picked her up, leaving her a depressed mess. She killed herself).
Old Homestead, CO (On June 4th, 1897, Pearl held a large party sponsored by “a wealthy admirer of Pearl from Denver which included the best wine and caviar.” This admirer had brought Pearl an imported Parisian gown that had cost $800. The two reportedly had an argument, probably on why she wouldn’t come back with him but chose to stay in Cripple Creek. The gentleman stormed back to Denver, and Pearl told her girls that she was going up to bed. It is said that she took an accidental morphine overdose, as she was known to take it to sleep. However, she may have done it deliberately, feeling abandoned once more).
(Other girls who worked for the Old Homestead may not have found a man to marry, and left for other parlors after reaching the age of 18, eventually winding up at the bottom of their profession. Many women would kill themselves if they hadn’t found a husband by the age of 30).
If a person dies unexpectedly, he or she may decide to re-enter their life as best they can in spirit form, especially in a restored building. Tours of their place may interest them as well as they try to find peace over their unexpected departure.
The Dumas Brothel, MT (Some prostitutes died after taking an abortion medication based on a narcotic, unexpectedly killing themselves as well as their intended target: their unborn baby).
Miss Molly’s Bed and Breakfast, TX (Some prostitutes here died from disease or were murdered).
The Palace Hotel, WA (Some prostitutes died from premature labor and prior to the birth of their unwanted babies, or from medication used for abortions).
Old Homestead, CO (From 1896-1917, some women could have died from botched abortions or illness. Pearl’s death could’ve been an accidental overdose, which could cause her spirit to be restless, dying just as her dream Parlor House was such a success).
If a much-loved spirit decides to stay in their favorite place in this world, other spirits who loved them in life may decide to stay too to keep them company.
LeDuc Mansion, MN (The spirit of Alice LeDuc keeps her father, General LuDuc, company in their forever home).
Whaley House, CA (The spirits of Mr. And Mrs Whaley stay in their forever home, comforting their distraught daughter Violet and their little toddler who died).
Old Allen House, AR (Spirits of the Allen family keep a distraught family member company).
Old Homestead, CO (Three of Pearl’s girls have chosen to stay with Pearl at the Old Homestead, feeling a closeness with her that they found hard to find again in this world).
The Curator of the Old Homestead Museum believes that the spirits of Pearl and those of her “girls” still reside in the house she built 125 years ago.
The Spirit of Pearl
Pearl must be tickled pink that she and her labor of love have been taken care of, remembered, and appreciated.
She may be present on the tours, listening to the docents give the facts in their presentations.
The docents feel the presence of something around them.
The Three Spirits of Pearl’s Girls
Several people have reported that there are three spirits of former girls who continue to reside at the Old Homestead.
People have felt someone touching them and have sensed movement out of the corner of their eye.
During recent construction, there were several reports from workers who said that the former girls of the house had appeared and were watching them work.
The girls must have appeared to the workmen, as these brave workers could identify who the spirits were.
Staff and workmen over the years have had many personal experiences with these spirits. They are a gentle group of spirit people.
As far as I can tell, paranormal investigators haven’t been allowed to do any research. It is feared that they would upset Pearl and her girls. The non-profit owners know which spirits are residing, and they want to not only guard the spirits’ feelings, but shield them from the ghost hunters attracted to the Old Homestead museum.
Most probably so!
The spirit of Pearl must find some peace, as the docents only say that she overdosed and didn’t kill herself. They present her business to folks on the tour as a way of life, making no moral judgements. She also must be pleased with the furniture and decor, which is much like she would have liked when alive.
To keep her company are three of her girls who no longer have to be sex workers, but can enjoy their own rooms and their memories in this special place, where they felt safe, loved and pampered while they lived.
353 East Meyers Avenue
Cripple Creek, CO