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Buffets . . . Buses . . . . and a Brothel . . .

Yes, I was on vacation. I spent 10 days in Alaska, seeing the sights, cruising, traveling via: plane, bus, train, ship, bus, helicopter, bus, zipline, and bus.

One would expect me to go on and on about the mountains and vistas and the fab buffet on the ship and all the sights. No, I want to tell you about one of my highlights: I went to a brothel. Well, a Brothel Museum. Out of the twenty people I was traveling with, I was one of the first to sign up for the Brothel Museum tour. Go figure.

Yes, I was thrilled to discover that in Skagway–which was a boomtown during the Gold Rush, they sport (no pun intended) a Brothel Museum. Skagway itself is fascinating–a well preserved look at the Klondike Gold Rush. The gold rush made the town so rich, it had electricity a full year before New York City. The wonderful Victorian buildings are all still there–including the Red Onion Saloon, which had a brothel on the top floor.

The brothel has been pieced back together–with stuff found in the attics and items they’ve discovered squirreled away in the floorboards–to make it into a museum and of course, I queued right up for a tour. Always the historical wonk and research nut. I knew so much, the “madame” offered me a job.

I politely declined. Believe me, the life of a Skagway whore in the 1890s was no picnic. Here is a picture of the beds they worked from:

This is 3/4 of the size of a modern twin and was their “work place.” Not designed for a cozy night or comfort. They had 15 minutes with each client who had paid $5 for the privilege. That $5 went three ways–$2.50 for the madame, $1.25 for the bouncer, and $1.25 for the working girl. And they worked from 6pm to 6am.

The madame, who charged an exorbitant $1000 for a night of her favors had a little more room:

Then again, she was six feet tall and weighed in at 250 pounds.

And some people just go to Alaska for the scenery.

16 comments to “Buffets . . . Buses . . . . and a Brothel . . .”

  1. Lisa Hutson
    August 15th, 2011 at 7:51 pm · Link

    They have scenery in Alaska? I thought they were most known for their brothels! πŸ™‚ It does sound like a fun tour.

    • Elizabeth
      August 16th, 2011 at 6:32 am · Link

      It was hilarious. Very ribald and NOT for young children.

  2. Patsi K
    August 15th, 2011 at 8:11 pm · Link

    When we lived in Alaska, We never went to Skagway but we did go to Seward a lot and up to Fairbanks and to North Pole Ak. We drove the ALCAN when we moved up there and when we moved back to the Lower 48. That is what the people who live in Ak. call the rest of the US.

    • Elizabeth
      August 16th, 2011 at 6:29 am · Link

      I’ve driven the the AlCan–Anchorage to Seattle. An amazing drive. Especially when you get out where there is really, literally NO ONE.

  3. Melissa Porter
    August 15th, 2011 at 8:16 pm · Link

    I am glad you enjoyed your trip up here. Nice pictures. I am thinking I need to head a little further North and visit.

    • Elizabeth
      August 16th, 2011 at 6:30 am · Link

      Melissa, my husband and I are already planning on coming back. This time without the huge family.

  4. Cynthia
    August 15th, 2011 at 8:29 pm · Link

    We stopped in Skagway for the day while on an Alaska cruise years ago. It is a neat town and I loved the Victorian buildings. I didn’t realize they had a Brothel Museum though.

    • Elizabeth
      August 16th, 2011 at 6:32 am · Link

      I have an eye for the unusual. I spotted that tour first!

  5. Kira Brady
    August 15th, 2011 at 8:42 pm · Link

    “she was six feet tall and weighed in at 250 pounds.”

    O.o Really??? I wish we had a brothel museum here. There’s a lust tour with the Seattle Ghost Tour after dark, but I think that’s the closest thing. I love learning about the history of these wild west towns. They’re all sex, guns, gambling and profiteers. Perfect inspiration for a bit of fiction. πŸ™‚

    • Elizabeth
      August 16th, 2011 at 6:31 am · Link

      Kira, what was truly interesting, is that most of these madames–after they made their fortunes–would move to Seattle to live in grand style. Then some man would come along, charm them, marry them and steal all their money.

  6. June M.
    August 16th, 2011 at 12:15 am · Link

    I would have loved to see this too! It doesn’t surprize me that historical writers or readers would be interested in this.

    • Elizabeth
      August 16th, 2011 at 6:33 am · Link

      Like I said, there were 20 of us and I was queuing up for the tour while everyone else was off hiking or shopping or eating. πŸ™‚

  7. jo bourne
    August 16th, 2011 at 7:24 am · Link

    Interesting that the bouncer got a 25% cut. I would have thought it’d be easy to hire cheap bouncers.

  8. Deborah Schneider
    August 16th, 2011 at 2:10 pm · Link

    I did a lot of research on brothels in the West when I wrote my first book. So much research that the librarian asked me if I was considering a career change. (She was a friend, because librarians are NEVER allowed to comment on materials checked out.) Visiting one would be really interesting.

  9. Karen H in NC
    August 17th, 2011 at 5:03 am · Link

    Never been to Alaska…to visit is on my bucket list! And leave it to Elizabeth to visit the state with probably the most beautiful scenery in the US and visit brothel museums…but that’s all for research…right? And let me ask you, do you plan to write a book set in Alaska or was this trip strictly for pleasure?

  10. Take A Look
    July 10th, 2014 at 1:48 pm · Link

    I’m stunned, I must say!


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