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At the turn of the twentieth century, Jerome was awash with brothels, and the town’s red light district overlapped with the heart of the business center. Although “Belgian Jennie” Bauters lived in Jerome only from 1896 to 1903, she was the mining town’s most popular and infamous madam. She owned and managed a number of establishments throughout the town, but “Jennie’s Place” fronting Main Street was the first business to have a sidewalk laid in front of it. Constructed in 1898, this simple commercial building was the third of Jennie’s establishments on this site: the first two were wood-frame “hotels” destroyed by the fires of 1897 and 1898. Jennie allegedly promised a free lifetime pass to her brothel to any fireman that rushed to save the building from the fire of 1899; notably, it survived.
Set into a steep hillside that falls away from Main Street down to Hull Avenue, the unprepossessing Main Street facade is two stories tall. Composed of quarry-faced, cast-concrete blocks, this four-bay elevation reads as an asymmetrical double house with storefronts on the first floor marked by central entrances flanked by plate glass windows. The unadorned second floor is pierced by four irregularly spaced, narrow windows. In contrast, the three-story, red brick Hull Avenue elevation is heavily fenestrated, with alternating windows and doors that allude to the interior’s rooms. Originally, a large front room on the first floor served as reception, while a long hall stretched to the rear with “cribs” (small, unadorned bedrooms) on either side; Jennie’s Place housed 20 cribs divided between two floors. Each floor contains multiple egresses onto steel scaffolding that serves as wide balconies and obscures the wall (an iron skeleton was erected in 2007 to buttress the destabilized building).
In 1905, after Jennie scandalously died of gunshot wounds inflicted by a lover in the town of Gold Road, her son sold the building to John Sullivan (the father of an Arizona attorney general, John L. Sullivan), who established his eponymous hotel there in 1907. Sullivan expanded the building to 60 rooms. The building remained in the Sullivan family until 1986. Today, it is one of the few surviving historic cribs in Jerome. The building, still known colloquially as Jennie’s Place, currently houses retail stores.
Hutchinson, Jon. “Jennie’s Place gets a new backbone: Jerome historical treasure finally finds some help.” Verde Independent(Arizona), July 2, 2013.
MacKell, Jan. Red Light Women of the Rocky Mountains. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2011.
Young, Herbert V. They Came To Jerome: the Billion Dollar Copper Camp. Jerome, AZ: Jerome Historical Society with Bird Printing, 1989.
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