Tales from the Tread: Raucous Routt County
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In a gully across the bridge and nestled away from downtown Steamboat Springs is a neighborhood known as Brooklyn that was once a hotbed of vice and the location of the red-light district with all its accompanying charms. Many towns had districts, and Brooklyn sprang up most likely as a result of Steamboat Springs being a dry town. The shortage of woman may have also contributed to the need.
We’ve all heard that the male population in Colorado far exceeded the females. Colorado’s first census in 1860 highlights just what a lot of men means. At that time, there were 32,654 people of which 31,077 were men and 1,577 females. Refining further, in the age range of 20 to 30, there were 17,604 men to 520 females, creating an overall ratio of 34 to one. Between the ages of 30 and 40, there were 10,511 men to 278 women for a 38-to-one ratio 38.
Routt County was likely no different.
The population for Routt County was 3,661 in 1900 and 7,561 in 1910. The railroad came to Steamboat in 1908, and Moffat County was split off from Routt in 1911. Mining, railroads and ranching were legitimate businesses but spawned a work hard, play hard mindset.
Routt County’s heyday of vice spanned from 1902 to 1916 with 1916 being the start of prohibition in Colorado.
In Brooklyn, should one seek the tawdrier elements of those times, there were options to be had. Popular saloons of the time included:
• Kline’s Capital Bar — Anton Kline proprietor — 1908
• Carrie Nation — started as a temperance bar then changed to liquor
• Gus Durbin — 1906 — associated with Ollie Patterson’s Boarding House, a known brothel
• The Mint Saloon and the Antlers — John ”Shorty” Anderson, proprietor — approximately 1909. Anderson had a business relationship with Hazel McGuire and was charged with white slavery.
In 1909, Brooklyn had four known sporting houses. There isn’t a lot of information, but known scarlet ladies were Ollie Patterson and Hazel McQuire. Ollie Patterson, born Iva Ethel Griffin, was active in Routt County in 1905. She changed her name to Ethel Macquarrie by 1919. A little more is known of McGuire, who worked out of a rooming house tacked onto the back of the Mint Saloon. She came from Oak Creek to Steamboat perhaps with Andy Black, a bartender who occasionally competed in the rodeo.
When walking through Brooklyn today, it is calm and placid. It’s hard to imagine the ruckus of the nights in the early 1900s, but it’s fun to try.
Editor’s note: Randi Samuelson-Brown is a regular presenter for the Tread of Pioneers Museum’s History Happy Hour Series, and her first published novel, “The Beaten Territory,” has been critically acclaimed and is a finalist for various awards. Her nonfiction book, “The Bad Old Days of Colorado: Untold Stories about the Wild West”, will be released May 1, 2020.
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