The Dumas Brothel was opened in 1890 by brothers Arthur and Joseph Nadeau. They had immigrated to the U.S. from French Canada in 1868. In 1878 Joseph married another French Canadian immigrant named Deliah Dumas.
When the brothel was formed, Joseph was already a successful businessman, owning the Windsor Hotel and Restaurant at 13 E. Broadway in Butte, Montana. The brothers decided to use Deliah’s maiden name so as not to reflect badly on his “legitimate businesses.” Both of the brothers died during the 1920’s but the Nadeau family continued to run it.
In the 1940’s, the madam at the time, Lillian Walden bought the Dumas from the Nadeau’s and operated it until 1950. In 1942, the U.S. Government attempted to close all houses of ill repute in the country in an attempt to shield young men who, at the time, had the potential to be headed off to war, from contracting or spreading venereal disease. It was around this time that the basement was sealed off, and all of the underground tunnels around town that lead to the Dumas and other brothels were closed as well. This effectively created a time capsule of anything left down there at the time.
In 1950 Elinor Knott took over operations of what had become the Dumas Hotel. It was a hotel in name only and the brothel continued with their business as usual. In early 1955 Elinor died in the upstairs Madame’s room. He death certificate listed her death as coronary occlusion, but it was thought she committed suicide. There are huge doubts about this though as the person who found her, Bonita Farren, assumed control of the brothel, her house, and her Cadillac, within only a few days of Elinor’s death.
Elinor was 42. She was buried in Mountain View Cemetery, however her spirit has been seen upstairs at the brothel she ran for 5 years.
From 1955 until 1971 the Dumas was run by Bonita. According to Elinor’s death certificate, her body was found by Bonita. Bonita also had 1 or maybe 2 husbands. There has been no official record of her first husband, even though she was supposedly married for a couple of years when she was 19. She married John at age 21.
John died after a fall while at the Dumas. His death certificate lists alcohol as a contributing factor, although the word accident is followed by a question mark. One final note on Bonita and John. John is listed as a clerk at the Board of Trade in Butte. Which is exactly where the final madam Ruby Garrett shot and killed her abusive husband. And John was possibly there when Ruby’s husband died!
In 1972 another larger than life character took over the brothel. She would also be the last. Ruby Garrett, also known as Lee Arrigoni, became the owner and madam. She had previously owned several other brothels. In 1959 she walked into a bar (the Board of Trade noted above) where her husband was playing cards, and shot him after a long history of being abused by him. She was convicted of manslaughter, but only ended up serving 9 months in prison.
In 1981 Ruby was the victim of a rather brutal robbery. During the trial of the suspects, Ruby’s occupation as well as her finances became public knowledge. This peaked the interest of the IRS, and in 1982 she was again sentenced to prison. This time for income tax evasion. It was at this point that the Butte/Silver Bow sheriff decided enough was enough and the brothel was finally shut down.
In 1990 Ruby was in the process of selling furniture, and antiques from inside the brothel when Rudy Giecek stopped by and offered to purchase the whole thing. She sold it to him on the condition that he maintain the original glory of the place. By this time the Dumas was in dire need of some repairs.
Rudy ran an antique mall inside as well as tours, but he lacked the finances to make many much needed repairs.
In 2012 Travis Eskelsen, and Michael Piche bought the Dumas at a tax auction, and were restoring, as well as ensuring and shoring up the structural stability. A new roof was also added to the building during this time as well.
In early 2018, tragedy again struck an owner of the Dumas when Michael Piche lost his life.
The Dumas was again purchased through a tax auction by David and Charlee Prince. The wishes of the last Madame, Ruby Garrett as well as those of many others who have been associated with the building are still intended to be followed. The Dumas is a fabulous building with an amazing history, and work will be continued to be done to return it to an as close as possible original state.
The basement needs work. Heat still needs to be restored. Several upstairs rooms received water damage before the roof was repaired, and they are going to take some work. The Dumas is deeply engrained in the history of Butte, and visa-versa. Tours take place on Saturdays during the summer. Since there is no heat, we aren’t open year round at this time. Heat is a priority, but it is still going to take quite a bit of work to get this done.