Denver’s Holladay Street, the most wicked street in the West in the 1870s and 1880s, was the street of nobody’s women and everybody’s women. Approximately one thousand “brides of the multitude” as they were called, were available in the imposing parlor houses or lowly cribs which lines both sides of the street for three blocks.
This red-light district was a metropolis, compared to Denver’s first tenderloin, a cluster of log cabins on the south bank of Cherry Creek in the late 1850’s. Then, in the 1860s, the sin spots jumped the creek and moved north. Originally, this thoroughfare was named McGee Street after one of Denver’s earliest settlers. Later, it was renamed for Ben Holladay, a stagecoach operator. Denver’s Chinatown, known as “Hop Alley,” paralleled Holladay Street; the opium dens and Chinese gambling establishments had entrances on both Holladay and Hop Alley. In 1889, the unsavory reputation of Holladay Street prompted the heirs of upright Ben Holladay to petition the Board of Alderman to change the name Holladay Street to Market Street.
The Market Street cribs were just wide enough for a door and two narrow windows. Each crib contained two tiny rooms – a parlor in front, a boudoir in back. The rent, which ranged from fifteen to twenty-five dollars a week, was collected daily in cash. In one particular section, the cribs were known as “dollar houses,” while in another section they were called “two-bit houses.” These two-bit houses could cost a man a lot more than two bits, as William Isas discovered in October 1891. Ardell Smith, whose crib was at 2235 Market, entertained the gentleman from Golden City, then, along with her friends, Blanche Morgan and Mattie Fisher, put morphine in Isas’ beer. Isas kicked the bucket, and Ardell Smith was sentenced to one year in the county jail for involuntary manslaughter.