In the 1800s, prostitution was part of the fabric of the frontier, and if you look closely, you can still see threads of that history today.
Three brightly colored houses, called cribs, in Popcorn Alley (so named because men came in and out so frequently, the slamming doors sounded like popcorn) are a reminder of Telluride's seedy past. The 250-pound Betty Franks (a.k.a. Big Billie) was madame of the popular Silver Belle bordello. Today, Telluride's employee housing facility is in a building named Big Billie's¿go figure.
CRESTED BUTTE, COLORADO
Elk Avenue is home to reputable 1990s establishments like the Forest Queen hotel, which was built in 1881 as a bar and brothel and is rumored to have been robbed by Butch Cassidy. Next door, Kochevar's, now a rowdy Butte bar, was originally designed to be a brothel, but Jake Kochevar's prudish wife put the kibosh on his dirty plan. The second floor remains deserted to this day.
Around 1912, the town's red light district was moved from the Blue River's west bank to Wellington Hill, named after the Wellington Mine. Miners frequented the house of Minnie Cowell, a madame and a humanitarian. With her earnings, she bought a house for a family left homeless after a fire.
PARK CITY, UTAH
The recently opened Mother Urban's Rathskellar on Main Street is named after an intimidating 200-pound madame with a wooden leg who presided over the red light district with the aid of a foul-mouthed parrot. Rachel Urban was also a philanthropist: She started a miner's hospital in town¿though probably to keep her clientele healthy.
Around the turn of the century, the area around the Little Nell hotel was Aspen's red light district, filled with one-room shotgun houses. It's rumored that Nell was a prostitute, although the Aspen Historical Society sticks to its story that Little Nell was a character in Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop.
DEER VALLEY, UTAH
The sophisticated, upscale resort of today was once home to Park City's red light district. In the early 1900s, public outcry forced Main Street's brothels to move outside the city limits. A row of 16 little houses of prostitution was established on the east side of what is now Deer Valley Drive.