Wednesday, July 10, 2013

B Street Brothels, Livingston

Every Montana town had its red light district, and remnants of these places survive in many communities. Buildings and houses have usually been adapted for other uses and their histories forgotten. One exception is the railroad town of Livingston’s quaint little B Street Historic District, once a thriving neighborhood that catered to railroaders. At one time there were nine houses. Five of them on the street’s east side survive. Built between 1896 and 1904, these unusual little cottages feature gables and porches that resemble those of larger homes. Identical in composition, they have front porches with thin columns and small attic windows. Each had two separate front doors, a brick chimney on each half, and three small rooms, called “cribs,” on each side.

There was also a small waiting area just inside each front door. Mid-range brothels like these often housed cribs enclosed within the house and were built without kitchens and bathrooms. These types of establishments were meant to look like real homes, but they had no conveniences. They gave patrons—in Livingston, mostly traveling railroad men—the impression of a “home away from home,” but in reality offered few creature comforts. Livingston’s B Street Historic District operated until it closed in 1948. Four of the cottages, resembling tiny wooden temples, retain good architectural integrity. Homeowners in one of the houses removed the partitions and added a loft. Wanting others to appreciate their home’s interesting history, they also preserved a patch in the floor, added during the historic period, to cover a hole worn by an iron bedstead.

P.S. Remember this brothel-turned-courthouse?

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