Get an up-close look inside the world’s oldest profession at The Brothel Deadwood located at the infamous address, 610 Main Street. Tours started August 1, exploring the real history and impact of the illegal Shasta Rooms brothel and its workers from 1876 until it (along with three other brothels) was busted by federal authorities on May 21, 1980.
“It was our Main Street initiative group trying to make sure that the focus came back to Main Street in Deadwood,” explained Deadwood History, Inc. communications director Rose Speirs.
“They were also looking at ways to repurpose or reuse [the historical] second floors of certain buildings on Main Street that were sitting empty and could be put to use,” said executive director Carolyn Weber.
Deadwood History, Inc. is also behind the Historic Adams House, the Adams Museum, the Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center, and the Days of ‘76 Museum.
After about three years of planning and organizing, the group opened the tours of The Brothel Deadwood for visitors 16 years or older.
“It’s a subject that has been often overlooked and misrepresented,” said Weber. “We’re trying to get the truth out about what happened here in Deadwood, make people aware of it and its role that it has in the complete narrative.”
“[SEX WORKERS] MADE A LOT OF MONEY, AND THEY SPENT A LOT OF MONEY IN OUR COMMUNITY. THEY GAVE GENEROUSLY. THEY WERE VERY PHILANTHROPIC TO ORGANIZATIONS HERE IN TOWN.” -Carolyn
The tours begin in the parlor before visitors follow tour guides into a series of nine to 10 rooms with varying stories and topics.
The first four rooms are working rooms based in different eras of the brothel.
“Of course we wanted to focus on the realities of sex work,” assured Weber. “We’re not trying to glamorize or glorify anything. We don’t take a stand. We’re not approving or condemning prostitution and the brothels in Deadwood.”
After the era rooms, the tour leads into a personal bedroom of a worker, where it focuses on the human side of the women behind the profession.
“These were real women who worked here, and we don’t want them to be defined for just that work and their job,” said Weber. “They’re multifaceted just like everybody else.”
ADMISSION + HOURS
Tickets // $15/person // 16+
October-April // Open Wednesday Through Saturday 11 A.M. – 7 P.M.
May – September // Open Daily 11 A.M. – 7 P.M.
Following the personal bedroom is the madam’s office where monetary transactions took place, the madam’s bedroom, and more.
At the end of the tours, there is a viewing room where videos of interviews with people who have interacted with the women are on display, Speirs said. Some interviewees include the current mayor of Deadwood, women who cleaned the rooms, and other locals.
Many of the curated items and décor in the museum are accurate to the time periods the rooms are set in. Some items were donations, while others were bought elsewhere.
Some of the items Weber has acquired include bedroom furniture, clothing, jewelry, and light fixtures—which are “dynamite,” according to Speirs.
“It’s not just the furnishings,” said Speirs. “It’s the words that will help fine-tune the story.”
Speirs’ favorite parts of the brothel are the script and the interviews, while for Weber, the best part is the anecdotes spanning 104 years they have to share.
“The stories we have to tell about incidents that have happened with individuals that were part of the brothels,” she informed. “There’s some really poignant and endearing stories, and there are ugly stories out there. And those are the things that I like a lot.”
And when you visit The Brothel Deadwood, they just have one request.
“Look at it a little more objectively,” insisted Speirs. “It’s a very difficult subject matter. So maybe after you hear the story… it might be easier for you to see through somebody else’s eyes.”