Opening weekend for the Deadwood Brothel Museum
Deadwood, S.D. — The Black Hills have a rich history, and Deadwood is working to show all of its history, no matter how scandalous.
Of course, this is in reference to the Deadwood Brothel Museum that just opened. The brothel museum is housed in one of the original Deadwood brothels, but looks like nothing more than another restaurant or store. The museum explores life in brothels in various time periods, and works to show the humanity of working women and the positive impact the business had on the local economy.
“Brothels were operating in Deadwood from 1876 until 1980 when they were shut down by the feds,” said Rose Speirs, the communication director for Deadwood History Inc. “And the brothels were known that the madams, and the girls were very generous to civic organizations. So at one time they helped by a fire truck from what we understand for the city of deadwood.”
Although the business was illegal, the work was often overlooked by officials, as business was very lucrative.
“They would turn a blind eye occasionally because they were so good for the economy of Deadwood and for the other businesses,” said Speirs. “And during hunting season, there’s obviously very specific times of the year that it was very beneficial to deadwood. “
The museum opened up just ahead of the Sturgis Rally, promising a great deal of visitors in the first few weeks being open. The process was extensive, and involved in-depth research into the lives of the women from newspapers and through the eyes of people in the community that remember the brothels. This included a collection of figures in the community such as local doctors, maids, and other business owners. To give a sense of the changes over the years, each room represents a different time period, complete with carefully curated furniture and photos. Despite what might be an uncomfortable discussion among residents, historians agree all history must be told. Speirs said,
“You can’t pick and choose what kind of history you want to learn and share with people. This was a big part of Deadwood’s history, and it’s our responsibility to share it. We’re trying to do a well rounded version of what history we offer, and so we want to talk about everything.”
The museum will be open year round for touring and is an opportunity for visitors and residents alike to learn a bit more about what made Deadwood run.