Happiness Redux
Silver Threads - 6/25/06

The Corner Bordello Legend

category_bug_journal2.gif Having a real, live moose trot down the street in front of one’s new home is a good enough story for one’s first month in a new city, but equally entertaining is another told to me on the day of my arrival in Portland, Maine, by a neighbor: only recently, he said, had the bordello on the corner been closed.

Earlier this week, when I posted a little stroll through my part of my new neighborhood, Alan G, who blogs at Some Final Thoughts, left this comment:

“Being one of your ‘male’ readers I am extremely disappointed that in your brief photographic tour you neglected to neither photograph nor point out the ‘corner bordello’.”

How right he is, so today I’m correcting that omission. This is the front entrance to the building that may or may not have held a bordello on the top floor. It looks like any other well-maintained, middle class apartment house of a style common in Portland.


Then you walk around to the side. What you can’t see well in this photograph is that this is, obviously, the more usual entrance where the doorbells and mailboxes for three apartments are mounted.


It lends credence to the bordello story that there is a small parking lot behind the house. Nevertheless, there is nothing about the building that signals its possible past notoriety. But isn’t it always that way. I know of two townhouses in Greenwich Village that are well-known as bordellos, but there is nothing about them that would reveal the business behind their ordinary façades.

It’s in my nature to hope the bordello story is true; such tales give shape and color to neighborhoods. But until I get enough detail to convince me, I’ll consign this one to the category of legend or (which would be a good story too) to the natives pulling the newcomer’s leg.”

[See Update.]


Wow Ronni….

I am left speechless. Thanks so much for the ‘corner bordello’ tour! Quite an elegant look to the old place don’t you think? I wonder if they had those big oil paintings hanging on the walls like you see in the movies? Oh…..I wonder if they had a ‘moving’ sale? Oh well, so many questions and those questions only go to feeding the legend I suppose.

Seems only yesterday that the topic of conversation here had turned to ‘happiness’. I have considered myself “content” for many years now but this morning? Well, I am just right-down happy as one of my life’s burning questions has a conclusion thanks to you – legend or not! :) :)

And I have to agree, legend or not, it does lend a bit of flavor to making home-sweet-home just a bit sweeter.

Thanks Ronni for your time and effort - that was truly nice of you.....Alan

Great photos, Ronni. I love legends and myths...and we sure have volumes of them here on the island. Most of the best ones concerned Miss Bessie, who owned the Island Hotel. Perhaps over the years they became embellished, but all of it makes for great story telling.
As you get to know your neighbors, I'm sure you'll have lots more to share here with us.

Embellishing on Alan's thoughts on what the "bordello" might have been like in its' heyday; there must have been a tinny upright piano with a man dressed in black pants, derby hat, white shirt with a red arm band . While playing he smoked a short butt of a cigar. There were strings of colored glass beads hanging down between the rooms and the mahogony bar had a large mirror with a sign, " All guns must be checked at the bar."

Hummm. This post really got me thinking. (These days I often need a "kick-start" to do that!)
I lived most of my life in Cincinnati---the Queen City---a place of colorful and probably apocryphal lore. I believe that the notorious bordellos of my youth were probably much the way Chancy describes them---but thankfully I can't vouch for this firsthand.

Four years ago I moved to CO. I signed up for a local history tour that included the mining boom towns of Cripple Creek and Victor. The whorehouses in these places defy description. Touring the local graveyards revealed dozens of women who lived lives "brutish, nasty and short" in the bordello days of the Wild West.
Somehow it changed the way I look at any romanticization of prostitution. Some women may choose it willingly and defend it as a legitimate way to earn a living. But after walking through the graveyards and the tiny, dusty cribs in the high desert I know in my heart it's a way of life that kills. Body, spirit---or both.

Well, it don't look like no chicken ranch to me, but then again, Portland ain't LaGrange...

Luv Naomi Dagen's blog... Nice of you to highlight her...

Cowtown Pattie would know about those Chicken Ranches...Thanks to Marvin Zindler's exposures down in that GREAT STATE OF TEXAS!!!!

Looks like you are getting settled...


Can someone please tell me how to go about opening & writing a blog?
I must have missed that class 50 years ago. Thanks

um...those photos are not of the not the right building. Also, you might want to consider ratcheting down the objectification [and prurience] a notch or two: it's not a legend...nor even an "oooohh, so exciting blog-worthy bordello!" anecdote. Rather, it was a sad situation where a poor and opportunistic ("poor," as in impoverished, and if you haven't noticed, there's a lot of poverty here in Portland--even on the same street where you've shelled out more to live than most families in the neighborhood will ever, ever be able to...on a dwelling that would house a family of 5) woman, who oversaw a few stringy pathetic young women in their late teens who came and went, looking pretty desperate, most likely on meth or crack (ohhhh! how lively and colorful these *interesting* locals are!), and who plied their trade on filthy mattresses on the floors, in a run-down building. The building was up for sale and some of us in our neighborhood took a look at it---and no, not to gawk and feverishly report the findings in our blogs. Now, I know it must be fun for you and your cronies that you wax amusing about the "quaintnesses" of your newly assumed non-New York address, but frankly it's less so for others of us.

I'm glad to see the truth has come out about the "bordello." Clearly it doesn't sound like one of those so-called high class operations that made news headlines in L.A. and before that in San Francisco some years ago.

Then, of course, there were all those glamour stories about The Mustang Ranch, I think it was called, in Nevada. I always think of Miss Kitty on "Gunsmoke" and how revered she was by that show's TV fans.

I've been to those Colorado communities, Lucy, and you surely hit the nail on the head about how we tend to romanticize prostitution, when for many women, they were simply trying to survive in a world that provided them few options for earning a living if they weren't married. Their life was not an easy one.

As a regular reader who lives in a small community on the opposite coast from Maine, who also considers herself a "crony" of this blog, I would just like to say to Chris that I find use of the term "quaintnesses" for descriptive purposes to be quite a positive one.

That term according to my dictionary means: "pleasingly different." I have always relished visiting, including in my own home town, such areas and buildings. Just as NYC, and Portland, Maine has them, so do communities across this country.

Some have lovingly been restored, some have not, but even they can sometimes be appreciated with an awareness of what they once were, the life that once thrived there, in what once might have been among the most prominent addresses in town.

Yes, it is a tragedy when we romanticize a life style such as the prostitutes you describe. All to often we look away from them, the homeless, the people whose lives may have become marginalized due to loss of industry, jobs in any community. Perhaps we need to look at why some people, not just on this blog, but all over this country do that.

I don't know if I'll ever have an opportunity to visit your Portland, Chris, having only been in the state once many years ago. But, I can assure you that I have read nothing here, nor do I think I am likely to read anything in the future that deliberately makes fun of, ridicules, or describes with the intent of reporting from a superior point of view, information about your city.

I have only been reading this blog about 8 months, am not a blogger myself, but I can confidently assure you that I do not believe this blog and the blogger who writes it, is about belittling the Portland, Maine community she voluntarily chose to be her new home.

I personally have looked forward to learning about Portland, Maine through this blog. I hope you return and can continue to contribute information that only a long time resident would know. I rather suspect this blogger might welcome input from you and others in yours and her community. In my experience she is very much about honesty, truth, facts, caring about people in every walk of life.

Cowtown Pattie--Then there was the Happy Bottom Riding Club, out Marie's way.

Cop Car,
Thanks for mrntioning th Happy Bottom Riding Club. I didn't know about theonly "out East" but when my son was stationed a Rdwards AFB in the Mojave desert I became fascinated with the aviatrix Pancho Barnes. She operated a riding/flying resort known as the Happy Bottom Riding Club in Muroc, CA. She was a wonderful character. Here's alink that has more detail.
I think yo'd enjoy reading her biograpy. Amazon has ut. (Of course!)

Sorry Cop Car and y'all. Altecacher Lucyd needs to adjust her specs. In addition to the astounding number of typos in my previous comment I misread the luminous Silver Fox Maria for Maine! I really AM losing it.
The link's good though.

Of course prostitution is degradation of the human condition to the max.

Perhaps it was in poor taste on my part to trivialize it by referencing the Chicken Ranch, and I meant no disrespect to the readership of TGB. My humor is often on the wicked side.

Apologies to anyone who took offense, and just write it off to those loudmouthed, boisterous Texas ways of mine...

Pattie - I don't believe any apology is in order. The more I think about it, the more I'm sorry I even acknowledged "Chris" who, as several commenters have pointed out, deserves to be ignored for his/her anonymity alone.

And you probably don't want to get me started on how prostitution doesn't need to be either degrading or a magnet for drugs - if it were legalized. But that's a discussion for another time.

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