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Colorado Travel Planning Guides : All Aboard : Silverton History : The Notorious Blair Street

Notorious Blair Street
All Aboard! The Durango Silverton Railroad Guide
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Gift Shop
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Smokey Mountain Railroad
In the Movies Welcome to Silverton Respectable Greene Street Shopping Jose Cuervo Express
San Juan Coach Activities and Things to Do
Notorious Blair Street and the Ladies of the Red Light District
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The Durango & Silverton Railroad
Please call us for more information about our many packages and special occasion options. Let us help you create lifetime memories! 877-872-4607

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Bar D Chuckwagon
970.247.5753 - 888.800.5753
Great Western stage show and delicious barbeque supper. Open nightly Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Reservations required.


Boot Barn
830 S. Camino Del Rio.
970-385-1054
A huge selection of Western boots from brands like Ariat, Justin, Durango, Old Gringo, Lucchese
and much more.

Silverton Chamber
800.752.4494
Silverton is a National Historic Landmark, part of the San Juan Skyway (with the Million Dollar Highway connecting Silverton to Ouray),





Soaring
Tree Top Adventure
s

970-769-2357
The largest, safest zipline tour available anywhere, has just gotten larger. In 2011, three new spans will open to the public, making a total of 27 ziplines in the ecofriendly course.


The Grand
Imperial Hote
l, Lounge & Restaurant

1219 Greene St., Silverton
1-800-341-3340
Home of Grumpy's World-famous French Onion soup. Live honky tonk piano. Featured in John Feilder's "Best of Colorado." Open year-round. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Strater Hotel
699 Main Ave.
Durango
970.247.4431
Get on board and experience the charm, history and excitement.


The Jewelry Works
965 Main Ave - Durangp
970.247.3173
Creators of custom one-of-a-kind jewelry.


Southern Ute
Cultural Center & Museum

(970) 563-9583
The History of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe is told. Live our Story


Fort Lewis College
8777-FLC-COLO
Fort Lewis College is a selective public liberal arts college in Colorado that launches careers and changes lives through a compelling educational experience.

Natalia's 1912 Restaurant
1159 Blair St.
Silverton
(970) 387-5300
Fast Friendly & Affordable. Serving bodaciously good food for the hungry masses.

All Aboard! Durango & Silverton Railroad Guide

Silverton's Notorious Blair Street

When train passengers arrive in Silverton they debark on Notorious Blair Street. The street was home to 32 saloons, gambling halls and houses of ill-repute in a three-block stretch. Often the first building in a mining camp was a saloon-if not, it was certainly the second! Among their colorful names were the Mikado, the North Pole, and the Laundry, (where they "cleaned you out)".

The street was named after Thomas Blair, one of the original San Juan prospectors who helped lay out the Silverton town plat. Like many of the town fathers, Tom Blair was a saloon owner. He owned the Assembly Rooms, where poker chips and cards were the vice of choice. Gambling men with names like Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp played faro within its walls. From its earliest days, the street was infamous for its loud music and dance halls In fact, the people on the south end of Blair Street were so mortified by its reputation that they petitioned the Silverton town council to have their end of the street renamed "Empire Street".

Although illegal, gambling and prostitution were tolerated in early day Silverton, as long as the "ladies" stayed behind an invisible line in the middle of Greene Street, separating them from the more "respectable" part of town. When the "ladies" were not on their best behavior, they were taken to jail-now Silverton's museum at 1557 Greene Street-where they paid a fine, helping to enrich the city's coffers. There is still a town ordinance on the books prohibiting curtains on saloon windows. The Law wanted to see what was going on inside those dens of iniquity!

By the 1940s most of the gambling was over and the "ladies" had moved on, citing competition from the local girls who "gave it away" in fits of patriotic fervor during WWII. The old saloons on Blair Street had a rebirth in the 1950s as movie sets where Westerns such as "Run for Cover", "Across the Wide Missouri", and "True Grit" were shot. And the train, a world-class attraction, was often the star, too. Now the train brings over 175,000 passengers a year to visit, unloading in the middle of Notorious Blair Street, a step back in time.

Be sure to save some time to visit Silverton's museum in the old County Jail next to the courthouse. Inside you will visit the "women's cell" where many a "madam" spent the night. Run by the San Juan County Historical Society, the museum is open from 9 to 5 daily from Memorial Day weekend to mid-October.

The Ladies of the
Red Light District
As in any area where there are populations of single men, prostitution made its way to Silverton. By 1882 there were 117 women indicted as "lewd women" who mainly worked on Blair Street, the Red Light District. The three blocks between 11th and 13th housed numerous saloons and brothels. Life was not easy for these women who served an important function in the community and stepped in to help when times were tough. In 1918 when the town was gripped in the clutches of an influenza epidemic and people were dying so quickly they could not be buried fast enough, the women of Blair Street put their fear aside and nursed many a Silverton resident back to health, often at the cost of their own lives. During the depression these women made several backdoor deliveries of food to hungry families. By the time WWII came there were only a few left in the profession and by the 1950s organized prostitution was completely shut down.

- Many More Mountains Vol. 1: Adapted by
Jennifer Leithauser / Edited by Gina M. Rosato







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