Today In Western History: Mattie Needs A Carriage House

May 7

 Today, in 1880, Martha Ready petitions the city council for permission to build a carriage house at the rear of block 12, on what is now known as Market Street.    Martha is well known in Denver,  where she is known as a shrewd and successful businesswoman.  She was often described as being a very good looking woman, with spirit and a highly competitive nature.

Martha Ready, also known as Mattie Silks, Denver's most successful Madame
Martha Ready, also known as Mattie Silks, Denver’s most successful Madame

Martha had competition for the affections of Cortese D. Thomson, a local businessman and successful gambler (back then, this was a legitimate business), in the form of another competing businesswoman by the name of Kate Fulton.  Legend has it that this conflict led to the only recorded duel between two women sometime in 1881, the legend doesn’t say what day it was. 

Why is Martha Ready worthy of mention here?  Because Marthy Ready isn’t the name history remembers her by.  If tell anyone about Martha Ready, they will likely say, “Who?”  But if you ask them if they ever heard of Mattie Silks, you are likely to get a smile and a nod of the head.

Matties Silks was Denver’s most famous and successful Madam from 1877 until 1912.  Her well-known and well visited bordello was located at Block 12 on Holladay Street, Denver’s main avenue of prostitution.  In 1898, Madam Jennie Rogers opened the House of Mirrors in Denver, and quickly became more successful than any of the competition. Jennie Rogers died in 1909, after which Silks purchased the House of Mirrors for $14,000. She continued to work as a madam, traveled, and invested in real estate, making her a very wealthy woman.

Born in 1846, Mattie Silks was a petite girl with blue eyes. By the age of 18, Mattie Silks was already running a brothel or “maisons de joie” in Springfield, Illinois. From there, Mattie Silks made her way west through Missouri to Colorado opening several brothels and settling in Georgetown, Colorado in 1875. Mattie Silks had several businesses lining Holladay Street (present day Market Street), including Mattie Silks House of Mirrors located at 2009 Market Street. A keen businesswoman, Mattie Silks operated a genteel and well organized establishment. She had a dozen beautiful, well dressed girls. Mattie Silks’ girls were provided a room and 2 meals a day plus full laundry services. The girls purchased their own clothing and they split their profits with Mattie Silks 50/50. Mattie Silks did not tolerate swearing or smoking and all customers were to be treated with the utmost respect.


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