Ketchikan in Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Alaska — Northwest
‘Cat’houses & Sporting Women
Alaska’s First City northbound was transportation and supply hub first for mining, then fishing and later to timber industries. Ketchikan’s male-worker populations sometimes seemed to match its local census and prostitution flourished for more than 50 years. And then, in 1954, it was banished.
City Council planted the Creek’s red-light roots with a 1903
It was a bazaar of red-light vice for half a century, but Creek Street also served as a clearinghouse, news and job center for the fishing fleet. After weeks on the fishing grounds, fishermen appreciated Creek Street parlor as places for socializing and after-hours drinks as much as for the favors of the girls. Nonetheless, the district’s by-products of scandal, mayhem and occasional corpses joining empty hootch bottles floating downstream indelibly assured its sordid far-flung reputation. Today, no longer “Uncle Sam’s Wickedest City,”
No. 5 – “The Star”
More than two “female boarders” constituted a house of prostitution under Territorial Alaska law, so most Creek Street ladies lived in pairs or alone. The exception was No. 5, the Star Dance Hall. Two stories, 12 rooms, with live music and dance partners for various types of entertainment, the Star’s operation was allowed via larger “protection” payments. A five-pointed darkwood star inlay still graces the old dance floor of the “nice” establishment. Its famous proprietors were “Black Mary” Thomas who bought it in 1917 and her successor Thelma Baker, who took over in 1924. Black Mary died not long after, in a rocking chair in her nearby home, counting her money. Thelma died in a fire in the Star in 1972, 18 years after the Creek was closed. The gutted Star remained boarded up until 1991 when it was restored.
“I liked it here because the men came in bunches.”
Thelma Dolly Copeland —whose “stage” name became Dolly Arthur—was born in 1888 near McCall, Idaho, but fled west at age 13 to escape a troubled family life. By age 18 she found selling her favors more lucrative that waiting
Erected by State of Alaska Division of Tourism & Historic Ketchikan, Inc.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Entertainment • Industry & Commerce.
Location. 55° 20.478′ N, 131° 38.475′ W. Marker is in Ketchikan, Alaska, in Ketchikan Gateway Borough. Marker is at the intersection of Creek Street and Stedman Street (Alaska Route 7) on Creek Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Ketchikan AK 99901, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 4 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Dolly's House (a few steps from this marker); 20 Creek Street (within shouting distance of this Chief Johnson Totem Pole (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Chief Kyan Totem Pole (about 600 feet away).
More about this marker. On top of the panel are period photos of Creek Street with the caption, "Viewing NE from Dolly's No. 24.-Circa Late 1920s". In the middle are photos of "The Star" and "Thelma Dolly Copeland". On the lower right is an advertisement with the caption, "This advertising flyer hit Ketchikan streets early in WWII, prior to USCG-pressured closure in the interest of National Defense." On the lower left is a photo of "Miss Violet and friends waiting for company..." Photos courtesy of the Tongass Historical Society, Rainforest Publishing, and Creek Street Historic Properties, Inc.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker.
Also see . . .
1. Historic Ketchikan. (Submitted on May 23, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.)
2. Creek Street Ketchikan Alaska. Experience Ketchikan website (Submitted on May 23, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.)
Credits. This page was last revised on December 31, 2017. It was originally submitted on May 22, 2011, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 964 times since then and 29 times this year. Last updated on December 30, 2017, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on May 22, 2011, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. 3. submitted on May 23, 2011, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina. 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on May 22, 2011, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. 8, 9. submitted on May 23, 2011, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina.