The Old Homestead House, was indeed a real live brothel in Cripple Creek Colorado. It has been preserved and is now open to the public as a museum.
I think it says a lot about a town when a local house-of-ill-repute is held in such high esteem (and I mean that in a good way).
Here’s the backstory:
The Homestead House was once the most famous brothel in Cripple Creek. Owned and operated by Pearl DeVere, the opulent parlor bustled with activity and became known for its impeccable service, high-powered customers, and its glamorous madams. At a time when $3 a day was considered a good wage for a miner, Pearl charged $250 a night, and got it. Today, the Homestead House is a museum that has been lovingly restored with velvet bedspreads and handmade furniture.
Below is a historic photo of one of the actual brothel rooms inside the Old Homestead House:
Madam Pearl de Vere was only 36 years old when she was found dead from a morphine overdose in her bedroom in the bordello. She was a highly successful “businesswoman” with (dyed) red hair but little is known of her past before she moved to Colorado from Evansville, Indiana in the 1880’s. No photos of her exist, but her original grave marker is on display at the local museum:
Pearl’s risqué career began in Denver and she quickly amassed a small fortune by catering to only very wealthy clientele.
When the 1890’s gold rush hit the Cripple Creek region, Pearl astutely relocated her business there to take advantage of the new-found wealth in the mountain region. In 1895, a huge fire raged through the town of Cripple Creek and Pearl’s first brothel business – located in a wood-frame house – was completely destroyed in the blaze.
The Madam rebuilt soon after however, with a larger more extravagant two-story brick structure that still stands in its original location today. She named her new building “The Old Homestead House”.
Pearl spared no expense in decorating the opulent parlour, importing wallpaper from Paris and outfitting it with the finest of hardwood furniture, expensive carpets, crystal electric chandeliers and leather-topped gaming tables. The house even included a telephone, an intercom system, and two bathrooms, at a time when such things were mostly unheard of.
Pearl’s untimely death was ruled an accidental overdose, but rumors persist to this day that it may have been suicide, or even homicide. In any case, the “soiled dove of Cripple Creek ” has left an indelible mark on the history of this town.
The Old Homestead House continued to operate as a brothel long after Pearl’s death until the year 1917. Later it became a boarding house, then a private residence. In 1957, however, the house was sold to new owners who discovered it still held many of the original items from Pearl’s tawdry days. They opted (wisely) to utilize the house as a museum.
The former whorehouse opened to the general public in June of 1958 and continues to be open seasonally for tours. The house is the only original parlour of ill-repute to remain in Colorado, and it is rumored to be haunted by Pearl’s unsettled spirit.
Pearl was something of an artist and several of her original paintings still hang in her room at the Old Homestead House.
If you are ever up in Cripple Creek, you can find Pearl’s former digs on Myers Avenue one block south of the main drag behind the Midnight Rose Casino.
For further reading on Pearl de Vere and her infamous house in Cripple Creek, see the following links: