Fifty-five thousand dollars covers the mortgage. Another $25,000 covers the tax lien. Toss in $5,000 to $10,000 on top of that and you can have the works: ownership of Butte’s historic Dumas Brothel Museum, the last completely intact brothel in the U.S., according to 15-year owner Rudy Giecek.
Today Giecek is soliciting offers for the museum, which he officially closed for safety and maintenance reasons May 4. An eBay bid of about $85,000 didn’t pan out; nor did an offer, also tendered via eBay, to swap the museum for a condo in the Philippines. But Giecek is hopeful that one of a few calls last week might result in a sale. Otherwise, he fears, the building might be turned over to the city and possibly torn down.
“It’s not about money with me,” he says. “I want to find somebody who’s going to save this [building].”
Built in 1890, the Dumas operated as a brothel until 1982. Giecek bought it “on the spot” when the brothel’s madam held a garage sale back in 1990; he later turned it into a museum. He says the building came with about three years of back taxes, a roof (still) in need of replacement, and a wealth of physical history.
One “crib” in the back of the building, for example, had been sealed up since 1943 when the federal government (officially) shut down the red light district. Giecek unsealed it to find a sink, bed frame, stove, ashtray with lipsticked cigarette butts, wooden matches, a stick of gum, and marks on the linoleum floor by the window and the door—likely the spots where a woman stood to smoke her cigarettes and greet her visitors.
Besides a sagging staircase and bad roof, Giecek has had other problems with the building: A partnership with the California-based International Sex Worker Foundation for Art, Culture and Education to turn the museum into a sex workers’ cultural center soured amid money squabbles and lawsuits dating back to the late 1990s. Still, with monthly payments of just $200, Giecek says he can afford to wait a little longer for the right buyer. For him, preserving the Dumas remains a labor of love.