Monday, January 26, 2009

"Call Me Madam"

I guess I'm the girl nobody remembers. - Alicia Huberman, played by Ingrid Bergman in "Notorious"

Well, just as Bergman and the silver screen will never let us forget Alicia, one ol' Cowtown madam is also on her way to staying remembered:

During a colorful period long ago, part of Cowtown was once known as "Hell's Half Acre". Cowboys and gamblers frequented this raunchy section of real estate and it was only natural that brothels were part of the scene.

In the local historical boneyard, Oakwood Cemetery, there is a plot section of "soiled doves", and it is there a new marker was recently erected to Mary Porter, called the "Heidi Fleiss" of Cowtown.

Along with Jessie Reeves and Josie Belmont, Porter ran a first-rate "sporting house" and all three brothels were within a block of each other, around Rusk Street which is now known as Commerce Street. It's been speculated that Butch Cassidy and the Hole in the Wall gang frequented Ms. Porter's establishment, as well as that of another madam named Porter - Fanny Porter, who owned a high class brothel in San Antonio, and of no relation to Mary.

Today, instead of gambling back rooms and houses of ill-repute, this section of downtown now only "sports" a convention center and fancy new hotels. Walking around downtown Cowtown during my lunch hour, I tend to forget how much history surrounds me. Fortunately, downtown still has some quaint old buildings that progress (nudged along with the hard fist of the local historical society) has allowed to remain. Houses of prostitution, however, are no longer officially on the tax roles.

Thanks to "Al" for reminding me I wanted to commemorate infamous Mary Porter with a blogpost.


Kay Dennison said...

I loved "Notorious"!! Thanks for the history!!!

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K. said...

Like anyone would forget Ingrid Bergman!

Just about every prominent family in Alaska is descended from a soiled dove. Also, a writer named David Fulmer has a good series of mysteries set in New Orleans' red-light district (Storyville), just after the turn of the 20th Century. Soiled doves abound.


tracy said...

Love this, Pattie!
There is a place down home folks called "Cinder Bottom"...lots of hootin' times were had by many, they say.
When people used to ask me where I was from and I told them, often they couldn't recognize the name of our town. But, then if I mentioned Cinder bottom, they knew immediately the county and town in which she sat.