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Frontier Diary

Willa SoncartyRegistrar, Frontier Historical Society and Museum
Photo Courtesy Frontier Historical SocietyAlthough illegal in Glenwood Springs, prostitution did exist in Glenwood Springs from the 1880s until official condemnation by the Glenwood Springs City Council in 1916. Most of the activities were located along Riverfront (Seventh) Street, and many of the houses were located in the 700 block of Palmer Avenue.
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The mining boom that struck Carbonate, Garfield County’s seat of government, brought many things to the fledgling camp. Wagons streamed into the site, bringing supplies, miners and speculators. In July of 1883, a wagon brought the first woman into Carbonate, and it was reported she was given an ovation, along with the presentation of a town lot, a pay mine, and “the wherewithal to purchase a silk dress.” That first woman was likely a prostitute.In 1882, John C. Blake came to what would become Glenwood Springs. As part of the Defiance Town and Land Company, he brought energy and ideas necessary to develop the town. He also brought Glenwood Springs’ first prostitute in the form of his common law wife, Gussie Blake.Gussie Blake brought organized prostitution to Glenwood Springs, becoming the town’s first madam. However, it was not until after she and John C. Blake divorced in 1884 that she built a magnificent brick brothel at 716 Palmer Ave. It was furnished with quality furniture, crystal and expensive carpets. However, Gussie did not have the financial ability to succeed, and sold her sporting house to a longtime Aspen madam in 1891.Officially, prostitution was illegal in Glenwood Springs. Numerous ordinances prohibited the operation of bawdy houses and heavily fined women practicing as prostitutes. However, the city fathers knew prostitution existed with or without ordinances, so “sporting fines” were levied monthly against the soiled doves, creating a de facto licensing system for the profession.With the mandate of state prohibition in January 1916, the Glenwood Springs City Council demanded Glenwood’s houses of ill repute be closed. However, a house at Riverfront and Blake Street continued to operate. The resulting police raid made Miss Green’s house an example of the council’s seriousness in their demand. The houses were closed, but a few prostitutes reportedly continued to operate quietly for many years thereafter.”Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Winter hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday and Thursday through Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.


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