The Best Little Whorehouse in Lansing, 1880s-1890s
This is a new one...I had never heard of this before until I came across the story on Lost Lansing.
Just a few blocks east of the Capitol Building in downtown Lansing was the city’s most infamous house of prostitution. Called ‘The Gate House’, it was set near the railroad tracks, hoping to snag weary male travelers as they got off the train at the depot.
At the time, brothels were referred to as ‘Bawdy Houses’ and this particular Bawdy House was run by Charles Brand and his sister. The Gate House was doing pretty good business, even under the watchful eyes of the local constabulary who were just waiting for that one slip-up that would warrant arrests. They seemed to manage ways to escape prosecution…but not always.
In 1891, the local police had been planning a raid ever since March 26 and finally it was time to pull it off. It was somewhere around 2:30am when a carriage pulled up to the brothel, filled with disguised policemen. They were posing as a group of drunken young bucks, out late looking for a good time with the Gate House’s ladies. One of the ‘boys’ jumped out of the horse-drawn cab and approached the door, staggering as if to appear drunk. The ‘boys’ made enough noise that it roused Charlie, who stuck his head out the upper window to see what the commotion was.
Realizing these young males had a good amount of money to spend, Charlie went down and opened the door. The first man stepped inside and ripped off his fake mustache, which revealed him to be the local constable, Marshal Shubel. The other males, all working for Shubel, poured out of the carriage to help in the arrest to the shock and dismay of Brand.
At first Brand put up a resistance and reached inside his pocket, possibly to grab a pistol – but the marshal was quicker. He shoved his own gun under Brand’s nose, who basically said “heh…uh, guess not” and gave himself up. The other officers rounded up everyone else in the house, which included seven prostitutes and five male customers.
Once at the jail, the girls began their barrage of curse words and threats to the authorities. The article in Lost Lansing says one girl threatened, “Don’t you put my name in the paper, for if you do, I will kill you when I get out.” “Yes, and I’ll help,” retorted another girl. This went on for the rest of the early morning hours (and by the way, their names were put in the paper).
All pleading ‘not guilty’, most of the arrested women and men were held on $200 bonds except for Charlie Brand, who was held on a $500 bond. Charlie paid his bail and was released.
The article in Lost Lansing is based on a newspaper article that appeared in the April 17, 1891 edition of the State Republican. It’s the only mention of this incident I could find. There doesn’t seem to be much other info on this, but if anyone has some, let me know or leave a comment! Is it even a true story?
Lansing Brothel 1880s-1890s
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