The hotel was built in 1890 in a Victorian Brothel style and is thought to be the last example of that type of architecture known to exist in the United States. Its three stories feature skylights and several large parlor rooms, and the basement holds several “cribs”, smaller rooms with just enough space for a bed.
The rear entrance of the hotel was in a small brick-lined alley off Wyoming Street known as Venus Alley, where many more “cribs” were located. Underground tunnels led to various other buildings in the town, allowing certain well-to-do patrons some privacy while conducting their “business”.
The Dumas (pronounced doo-muhs) operated legally as such from 1890 until 1982 and was the largest, grandest and most widely known bordello among many located in Butte’s thriving red-light district. The building is a contributing property to the Butte-Anaconda Historic District, a National Historic Landmark.
A vast wealth of copper and other metals was extracted from the Butte Hill, giving the town its appropriate and proud title, “The Richest Hill on Earth”. The miners of Butte and others of all classes frequented both the saloons and brothels.
In its first half-century, 1890–1942, the Dumas used all 43 of its rooms. Since miners worked round the clock so, too, did the staff of the brothel; during busy times, weekends and paydays, the brothel ran three shifts of girls.
The prostitution business at the Dumas Brothel was officially shut down in 1982 for income tax violations, when the last Madame, Ms. Ruby Garrett, could no longer afford to pay taxes. In 1989 the building was purchased by Rudy Giecek, a local man interested in preserving the building and its history.
The building became a museum and for several years it was affiliated with the International Sex Worker Foundation for Art, Culture and Education (ISWFACE). In 2005 the Dumas Brothel Museum was closed due to financial considerations surrounding much-needed structural repairs and other conservation costs.
In 2008 the Dumas Brothel reopened after a fund-raising effort.
On June 20, 2012, an announcement was added to the Dumas Brothel Web site in reference to a change of ownership: “Mr. Michael Piche and Mr. Travis Eskelsen, both Butte residents, have purchased the Dumas Brothel from Mr. Rudy Giecek with the foremost goal being the restoration of the building, which we have found to be in critical condition”
On Feb 8th 1955 Madame Elenore Knott of the Dumas Brothel had made a decision to change her life. She had decided to run away with her lover and start a new life. Her lover was a married Butte business man. Elenore waited patiently with suitcase in hand but her lover never showed.
In the morning Elenore was found in room #20 of the Dumas Brothel, dead of an overdose of sleeping pills and alcohol.–Elenore’s life had been very financially rewarding and she possessed a number of worldly goods including a nearly new Red Cadillac Convertible, gold and diamond jewelry, cash and a new Harley Davidson that she had just bought. The motorcycle, she told her friends, was purchased to “put some fun into her life.” After her death, none of these things were ever found or reported to her estate!
Since that time, working girls of the Dumas have reported seeing the ghost of Elenore, suitcase in hand, walking the halls of the Dumas Brothel. No doubt still searching for her lover. Elenore has also shown her presence to many visitors of the Dumas, but the most dramatic evidence is the appearance of Elenore in many photos taken throughout the Dumas.
Paranormal Researchers have been to the Dumas and have concluded that there are at least two spirits within the building.
We had the pleasure of investigating the Dumas Brothel on Friday, Sept 13, 2013 with the Mining City Paranormal Group located in Butte Montana. Investigation concludes this is a haunted location. Evidence will be posted after we return from our two week road trip.