Mary Anne Conklin ran the first female run brothel. It was located across the street from Henry Yesler's saw mill. She was married to a Russian sea captain who abandoned her in Seattle, the captain found her foul mouth and demeanor unpleasant, so he left her. Together they owned the Felker House, which she then eventually turned into a brothel. Sailors going by her house were known to blush at the sound of her cursing from her balcony. She could swear in 7 languages. She kept rocks in her apron and she had dogs. If she didn't like you and you came on her property she would throw the rocks and words at you, sick her dogs on you. This practice earned her the nickname Madame Damnable which stayed with her through her life and death. It is the inscription on here gravestone today at Lakeview cemetery where she "supposedly" rests. She died of old age and was buried in one of Seattle's first cemeteries in Pioneer Square, which flooded regularly. Not uncommon to see a body float out with the tide. Her's didn't budge. When they went to move her to a more permanent grave-site, they found that they couldn't move her casket. It took 6 men to pull it out of the mud. In life she was 5 ft tall, 90 pounds, in death, her casket weighed in at close to a ton. They opened the casket and found her perfectly preserved, grey. She had calcified in Seattle's tide water. She was perfectly preserved. PT Barnum offered a sum close to 5 thousand dollars for her remains to include in his circus but this city said "No way. we Love her" and kept her. She was moved to the city's first formal cemetery at 2nd and Stewart and then moved to Denny's plot at 5th and Denny and then to Volunteer Park, and then to Lakeview cemetery. But was she really? It is uncertain as to whether her remains made it all the way to the top of that hill. Some say that she is still buried in downtown Seattle....
Early Seattle benefited from other prosperous ports like San Francisco. The deep harbor not only allowed for the sale and passage of timber, but for workers to arrive in the thousands and take residency in the the region. The majority of those workers were men. The first Westward bound American party to cross the Oregon Trail was the Denny Party in 1851. A sawmill soon followed and old growth timber was cut and sold, making way for new homesteads and the arrival of thousands of more men. An entrepenuer from San Francisco, John Pinnell arrived and opened a brothel. He named it the "Illahee", which in Chinook Trade jargon, meant "Home Place". His first girls were local, young women from the different coastal tribes. Within a few years he also hired women from San Francisco, past their prime and over the age of 30, to work in his Seattle house. Other houses sprang up throughout South Seattle, earning Seattle the nickname "Sin City" for it's offerings of sex and gambling. Prominent Madames became voices in local politics and major financial contributors to public works. While there was a sex trade that operated with girls enslaved in cribhouses there were also reputable houses where women kept what they earned. By 1900, it is estimated that the male population of Seattle outnumbered women 10 to 1. By 1910, Seattle was such a popular destination for young men, that the world's largest brothel was built with city funds and placed at the base of Beacon Hill. By 1941, the main illness treated at the US Marine Hospital at the top of Beacon Hill was syphillis. It was at the request of the military that most brothels were closed in Seattle.
In no way does this tour condone or promote the traffiking of people. This is a historical tour that focuses on prositution, theater, and a part of Seattle's past that is both entertaining and at times, tragic.