What came of the House of Mirrors?
Mattie’s House of Mirrors on “The Wickedest Street in the City.”
This question captivates Friday last when on a rare free day, sandwiched between securing housing and moving in, I let my feet take me where they will.
And to where they will is the original downtown Denver.
Looking every bit the tourist with visitors’ guide in hand, I weave through the streets lined with Old West red brick buildings, many restored and on the historic registrar.
I arrive at this plaque:
Expecting you not to read that, I share the highlights that pique my keen interest:
“The Wickedest Street in the City” from the 1880’s to 1912, Holladay (now Market Street) was awash in cheap cribs and elaborate bordellos, dance halls and seedy saloons where over 1,000 women sold their charms.
“In the bustling underground economy of sex and entertainment, a few enterprising ladies honed their entrepreneurial talents. Madam Belle Binard’s house at 1952 Market was a stylish Victorian with 14 rooms, 5 parlors, music and dance halls, ‘strictly first class in every respect.’
“ … Mattie Silks opened her first house in the 1870’s … had nearly as many houses as her girls had customers in an evening … and later bought Jennie Rogers’ renowned House of Mirrors at 1942 Market.”
Mattie’s House of Mirrors. I’m off in search faster than you can whisper “silk stockings.”
Guess what. It still stands!
The brown wood shutters leave the interior to the imagination; the walls are the sole witnesses to the stories and they ain’t talkin’.
Not at the moment anyway. It’s closed, demanding a return visit during open hours.
For history buffs and anyone hot for colorful sordid steamy pasts, a bit about the brothel, courtesy of this site, built by one madam to compete with another:
The first floor paired a fine eatery with a parlor/viewing area for the customers.
The second floor housed the girls’ rooms in a unique layout. The building was divided into small 9×7 rooms and some larger rooms to make space for a wood-burning fireplace.
The rooms were designed such that the bed would drop from the wall and block the door so to provide the guest with a sense of security.
One man’s security is another man’s secrecy but I digress.
Prices for services ranged from 75 cents to $2.00 — the latter for a room with heat.
There is one recorded death in the brothel — the suicide of Ella Wellington, whom one census shows listed as owner and resident. She put a 32 revolver to her head and was found by one of the girls.
The brothel changed hands from one madam Rogers to one madam Silks and enjoyed terrific success until 1915, when a national moral reform movement, from which Denver was not immune, shuttered its doors.
It has since served as a Buddhist temple (with reports of a suicide near the second-floor “working area” restrooms), warehouse, barbershop and bike repair shop.
Today Mattie’s House of Mirrors hosts a small bar, restaurant and museum dedicated to women in the world’s oldest profession.
All that and innumerable tales untold.
Accounts of paranormal activity abound, including a piano playing by itself, sounds of parties and many staff members refusing to go alone o the second floor, reportedly highly active.
So what — or who — peers out at you from the windows of the fine madam’s House of Mirrors?