I have just returned from a 7 night cruise to Alaska aboard Holland America’s Koningsdam.
Alaska has been top of my wishlist for around 10 years now. I researched many of the ports before I travelled. In Skagway the most popular trip is the White Pass Yukon rail ride. I wasn’t sure about it as I’m scared of heights and there are some big drops!
Instead I decided to try the Red Onion Saloon Brothel Museum. The Red Onion Saloon has been in existence since 1897 at the height of the Gold Rush. It is free to sit in the Saloon apart from the cost of drinks and food. The Museum is above the Saloon and entry fee is 10 US dollars. Myself and my friend paid and waited in the bar for the next tour – these take place regularly throughout the day and last around 20-30 minutes.
The tour is led by a guide in costume as a lady of the times! Her narration was flirty’ cheeky and fun but also very informative. The rooms of the brothel are almost the same as they were at the time. The walls and floors had been stripped back to its original state. Many of the exhibit were found hidden under the floorboards when it closed. The original red lamp was still there. The narrator explained how all girls had a doll made of them and the client chose the lady he preferred by the doll. The men paid 5 dollars for 15 minutes of which the madam took 50% and the bar man 25% leaving the girl with 25%. This sounds poor pickings but she compared it to earnings of ladies in so called honest professions and it still was a lucrative wage especially as bed and food was free. Many of the girls used it as a stop-gap to earn money on their way to other towns and Cities such as Dawson City. She also told the tale of the brothel’s famous madam Diamond Lil Davenport. There was an exhibit of a typical ladies bedroom and the contrast of the Madams room. Some of the artwork around the museum and bar are a little risque but tasteful. There is also reported to be a resident ghost Lydia who sadly took her own life in the brothel.
This was such an interesting tour and so well worth the entrance fee. As well as the tales of the life of the girls it also outlined the history of the town and the Gold Rush.
I would highly recommend it if you are in town.