There are some beautiful, interesting places in this land of ours. The last trip my husband and I made together before he passed was to Cripple Creek. This town is amazing. It’s perched in the high elevation of the Colorado Rockies and history was made when a rancher discovered gold in 1890. That sparked a boom and everyone rushed, seeking their fortune. Within a year the population was 10,000 then swelled to over 25,000.
A red-light district sprang up the length of Myers Avenue. It sported 73 saloons and probably as many parlour houses and dance halls.
One of the West’s wildest and most famous houses of ill-repute was The Homestead. It’s still talked about today. The madam was Pearl De Vere. She was a pretty red-haired woman just 31 years old who loved to ride around town in a carriage with red wheels, pulled by a team of black horses. She knew what men wanted and gave it to them—for a hefty price—if they qualified.
No one could just walk off the street into The Old Homestead. First, they had to apply and state their finances which she thoroughly checked out. Then the gentleman put down a $50 deposit while they waited. That was just to get through the front door. If everything checked out, Pearl arranged an appointment with him. If she approved of him being with her girls, he paid $250 in advance for one night. Her brothel was the place to be.
But Pearl protected her girls who were the most beautiful and talented in the town. She only employed four girls and she made sure they had the best medical care and a checkup every month. She paid them well—they kept 40% of what they brought in—so they could afford the most beautiful clothes, often ordered from Paris. She required them to eat at last two nourishing meals a day of red meat, vegetables and milk. Because being a prostitute was strenuous work and an ill girl made her no money. (The picture below is rumored to be of Pearl, but no one knows for sure. Pearl just didn’t pose for pictures. If this is her, it’s the only one in existence.)
Pearl also furnished The Homestead with the very best. The house had modern everything, electric lights, running water, a bathroom, a telephone and wallpaper imported from Europe. Chandeliers sparkled under the lights. Everything was lavish and opulent and the wealthiest men found it a wonderful, exciting place to be.
The house had four parlors, a music room, dining room, kitchen, and Pearl’s bedroom downstairs. Four bedrooms were above for each of her girls. These pictures are compliments of The Old Homestead website: http://www.oldhomesteadhouse.com/
The Cripple Creek authorities taxed each working girl $6 a month and their madam $16. At one time city records listed almost 500 women so the city raked in a ton of money.
From miners to millionaires, the men of Cripple Creek and beyond came to Myers Avenue for a good time. The variety of entertainment could accommodate any size wallet.
And The Homestead was the elite place to be. Under the sparkle of the crystal chandeliers, the wine flowed freely as laughter and music echoed through the walls. Pearl died on June 5, 1897 after attending one of her famous Saturday night soirees where she wore a new $800 dress from Paris. She went to bed at 7 AM and took some morphine to help her sleep. It’s said she overdosed. Even today, Pearl’s is the most well-remembered funeral in Cripple Creek’s history.
If you ever get a chance to visit Cripple Creek, take a trip down Myers Street and find your way to The Old Homestead that is now a museum. You’ll love seeing how these women lived.
I wish I could’ve lived back then and seen this place in its heyday. It would’ve been something. Even today those mines are still producing over a million dollars in gold a year. But sadly Cripple Creek’s population has dwindled. They have several casinos there for tourists who still love this old town. My husband and I enjoyed that trip so much.
If you had lived back then, what would you have thought of Myers Street and Pearl De Vere? Would you have been fascinated by her or avoided any contact?