Red Lights and Silk Stockings
Blaine County's Ribald Past
Photography: Courtesy of Idaho State Historical Society and The Regional History Department of The Community Library
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Though Dot Allen might have had class, Peggy Palmer had connections. Her bordello was in a house owned by her boyfriend, and he was one of Blaine County’s early sheriffs. Prior to the 1940s, brothel madams ponied up a portion of their profits to support local law enforcement in return for their turning their heads.
Rose Mallory is a longtime Hailey resident who remembers the closing act of Palmer’s house. Mallory is a member of the Basque Inchausti family, who moved to Hailey in 1936 to open the Gem Bar & Boarding House, which catered to Basque sheepherders. Her family’s boarding house was directly across the street from Palmer’s brothel, which had by then become known as the best red light house in the Valley. But it was the beginning of World War II and people and priorities were shifting. Legal prostitution was part of that trend, and the West began to see it fade.
Whether Palmer and her boyfriend split, or she retired, the house was put up for sale and the Inchaustis bought it to accommodate their growing family. It was the early 1940s and the house sold for roughly $2,000.
The Inchausti home is one of very few remaining remnants of the time that half a dozen brothels lined the street. The building now houses Cornerstone Realty on the corner of Bullion and River streets. Most of the other houses of prostitution are lost, either to fires or new development.
When Mallory’s family first moved in, the interior design of the house was accordant with its history. The house was only as wide as the front porch. It had a tiny front room with French doors that opened up into Peggy Palmer’s bedroom. Next to that was a lavender bathroom.
The bedroom and bathroom were located on the side of the house that now faces daVinci’s Italian restaurant. Beyond that, the dance hall portion of the building faced River Street. There was also a living room and a very small kitchen. In the back were two rooms where prostitutes earned their keep. The red light had been on the River Street side, beckoning to lonely men in the night. >>>