Butte Citizens for Preservation and Revitalization

P.O. Box 164, Butte, MT 59703
info@buttecpr.org

The Dumas Brothel

The Butte CPR brick workshop at the Dumas in July, 2007 The Dumas Brothel, Butte, MT

The Dumas Brothel is the only surviving three-story Victorian brothel in the U.S. It was built in 1890 as a bordello and operated until 1982, and it is a vital contributing element of the newly expanded Butte-Anaconda-Walkerville National Historic Landmark District. The building's roof is failing, and supporting masonry and brick-clad walls are crumbling and in places are separating from the main structure. The threat is severe. The solution is an infusion of significant money, either through a new, motivated owner, or grants to the present owner who has no funds for repair or maintenance.

Site's Significance

Detail of the cornice on the Dumas Brothel in Butte, MT.

The largest and longest-running house of prostitution (illegally for much of its life) in the US, the Dumas was built as a brothel in 1890 and closed in 1982; it operated as a museum from the 1990s to 2004. We believe this building is the last surviving example of Victorian Brothel style architecture in the US. It still has tiny cribs in the basement, several parlors, and central oval hallways lined by rooms for guests that overlook the first floor, and skylights above the central area. The building was reported to be connected to the central business district by underground tunnels. It is the only 3-story brothel remaining in the heart of Butte's once thriving red-light district, the second largest in the West (after San Francisco's Barbary Coast). The structure is a critical contributing element of the Butte-Anaconda-Walkerville NHLD, now the nation's largest. The stories this building tells are integral to the cultural history of Butte.

The Site's Threat

failing brick at the Dumas in 2007

The roof is failing, and many sections of original brickwork are crumbling; sections of walls are pulling apart from the main structure. An interior load-bearing masonry wall is collapsing. Roofing is separating from brick parapets, allowing moisture into the exterior wall structures. The rate of decay has increased in the past 4 years, and especially in the past 2 years since the building has been closed and ignored. The owner's lack of funds for the necessary significant repairs, and even for routine maintenance preclude protection. The structure is threatened seriously, both in the interior and in terms of structural stability.

Brick to be reapired at the Butte CPR brick repair
workshop in 2007

Advocacy and Engagement

Volunteers from Butte Citizens for Preservation and Revitalization (Butte CPR) and especially Silverbow Properties have (with the owner's permission) done and will do (weather permitting) some stop-gap emergency work on the roof. Lack of funds prevents full or even significant partial success, and this work only addresses preventing water damage to the interior. The serious structural problems remain unaddressed for lack of funds.

Community and national support could consist of any of the following:

If emergency efforts to stabilize the building could be funded, cultural tourism and promotion cosponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in concert with exisiting groups such as Old Butte Historical Adventures (guided walking tours) and Butte Citizens for Preservation and Revitalization (advocacy, historic preservation education, and educational tours) could generate funds for ongoing restoration and preservation by returning the Dumas to its status as a museum (1990s-2004).

Dumas Brothel web site

All Dumas photos on this page and others are available for media use. Contact Dick Gibson, rigibson@earthlink.net for high-resolution versions. Credit: "Richard Gibson, buttecpr.org".

work on the Duams roof
work on the Duams roof
work on the Duams roof

work on the Duams roof
work on the Duams roof
work on the Duams roof

work on the Duams roof
work on the Duams roof
work on the Duams roof