857: Mary Ann Conklin

Manager of Seattle’s First Known Brothel

Born: 1821, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, United States of America

Died: 1873, Seattle, Washington, United States of America

Also Known As: “Mother Damnable” or “Madame Damnable”

Mary was married (or at least in a relationship with) a sea captain. After he abandoned her in Washington state, Mary decided to support herself by going into business (one source says he never abandoned her at all and instead they both lived and worked in Seattle, but most conclude Mary was effectively single upon reaching Seattle). She hooked up with another captain, this one by the name of Felker, who owned a two-story lumber house in the small town of Seattle. Mary began working at Felker House when it was just a hotel, but soon oversaw the addition of a brothel to the second floor; the first brothel to operate in Seattle. Sadly, Felker House burned to the ground in the Great Fire of 1889.

Mary earned her nickname from her fiery temper and profane vocabulary—evidently, she could swear in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, and German. So, you know, that’s impressive.

Mary rented out two of the rooms in the hotel/brothel to also serve as the courthouse and juror room. She charged the provincial government $25 (some claim per day!) for the courthouse room and $10 for the room to house the jurors. As the years passed, Seattle residents transitioned from calling the building Felker House to instead referring to it as Conklin House or Mother Damnable’s.

Eleven years after she died, the cemetery Mary had been buried in was converted to a park, so all the coffins had to be moved. According to local legend, when they dug up her grave her entire body had turned to stone with the features intact.

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