Miss Hattie's Bordello
As a frontier town in the late 1800s, San Angelo was awash with many of the same sights and amenities typical to the early cities of western expansion. As the first street in the old “Santa Angela,” Concho Avenue once catered to the rough types who settled from eastern states in search of work. With hundreds of men and few women living and working in these rugged towns, the frontier brothel played a central role in the leisurely activities of workers and businessmen. Dating back to 1902, Miss Hattie’s Bordello once stood as the central brothel in the area, and it operated for 50 years until the Texas Rangers finally raided the place and shut it down. With a museum housed in the historic 1898 building where Miss Hattie’s was located, visitors can discover a new side to the old west that they may have never encountered before. With a tour through Miss Hattie’s Bordello, visitors can discover the life and times of the frontier brothel while exploring the stories of the women who worked in these institutions in San Angelo. Although Miss Hattie’s operated as a brothel, tours of the museum are kid-friendly.
Backstory and Context
History of the Frontier Brothel
The history of Miss Hattie’s Bordello begins with the establishment of San Angelo by Bartholomew J. DeWitt in 1867, and although it was quite rugged at the time, the construction of the railroad two decades later brought hoards of settlers and entrepreneurs moving into the Texas city. To support the population growth, there was a prominent business boom in the 1890s, and this boom included the growth of brothels and saloons.
In 1902, saloon-owner Mr. Hatton and his wife purchased a two-story building on Concho Avenue, and after Mr. and Mrs. Hatton divorced that year, she received the upper floor of the building. In an attempt to support herself and supply the needs of cowboys, ranchers, and local businessmen, Mrs. Hatton (now Miss Hattie) refashioned the upper floor and opened her brothel. The women who worked here charged between $1 and $2 for their services, of which they received 50%.
As the prohibition came to San Angelo in the 1919, the brothel thrived and was connected to the local speakeasies and other brothels linked throughout San Angelo, and Concho became San Angelo’s unofficial vice district. Miss Hattie’s political and business connections in San Angelo allowed the brothel to continue operation well after the prohibition, but by 1952, the brothel shut down.
The historic building sat empty for nearly two decades after it shut down, and in the 1970s, the old brothel officially opened as a museum to pay tribute to and educate visitors on the time period as well as the role of prostitution in the frontier town. In fact, the brothel still features its original furnishings, including bed frames, the ceiling, and much more.
Tours of the museum can take about 30 minutes, though visitors are encouraged to explore and digest each of the five bedrooms as long as they would like. These bedrooms focus on individual stories of the women who lived and worked in the building, and the furniture and other furnishings remain original to either the time period or the brothel itself. Tickets to the museum can be purchased next to the museum at Legend Jewelers.2