Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Daniels County Courthouse

Scobey, the seat of Daniels County, has Montana’s most unusual courthouse. It is a stunning false-fronted building, painted a crisp white. But it has a rather shady past. The building has been enlarged and remodeled inside. What was once a spacious hotel lobby is now divided into county offices. But the courthouse began as a hotel, built sometime before 1913 when the town of Scobey relocated from its original site along the Poplar River flats. This hotel had several owners, but during most of the teens, One-eyed Molly Wakefield owned the building. Molly was a rough character who earned her nickname because she was blind in one eye. A long scar ran across it, hinting at some violent episode in her mysterious past. She came on the train from Kansas City with her four sons, all her belongings, and money in her pockets. Molly bought real estate, including the hotel. She and her sons kept pit bulls for fighting staked between her hotel and the Tallman Hotel next door. There was gambling in Molly’s hotel, as there was in Scobey’s other hotels, but women were the main attraction. The hotel had no indoor bathroom facilities, although the first-floor rooms for entertaining were handily equipped with sinks. A large sleeping room upstairs accommodated legitimate overnight guests. In 1917, federal officials closed red light districts across the nation. One-Eyed Molly disappeared, and her hotel sat empty.

Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, 950-886
When Scobey became the county seat in 1920, officials had no reservations about taking over the old hotel. Even today, some of the county offices retain telltale sinks. It is Montana’s only brothel-turned-courthouse.

From Montana Moments: History on the Go
P.S. Remember this savvy madam?

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