The Everleigh Club at 2131-2133 South
Dearborn Street, Chicago.
Everleigh Club was a high-class brothel which operated in Chicago, Illinois from February 1900 until October 1911.
Photograph from Minna Everleigh's 1911 book "The Everleigh
was owned and operated by Ada and
Opening of the Everleigh Club
Prior to relocating to Chicago, the Everleigh sisters toured
brothels in many cities, trying to find a location which had
"plenty of wealthy men but no superior houses." They were directed to
Chicago by Cleo Maitland, a madam in Washington, D.C., who suggested they contact Effie Hankins in
After buying Hankins's brothel at 2131-2133 South
Dearborn Street, they "fired all the women and completely
redecorated the entire building with the most luxurious
appointments available. Silk curtains, damask easy chairs, oriental
rugs, mirrored ceilings, mahogany tables, gold rimmed china and
silver dinnerware, perfumed fountains in every room, a $15,000
[equivalent to $369,205 in 2007] gold-leafed piano for the Music
Room, mirrored ceilings, a library filled with finely bound
volumes, an art gallery featuring nudes in gold frames—-no expense
was spared. While the heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson
thought the $57 gold
spittoons in his café were worth boasting about, the patrons of the
Everleigh Club were obliged to expectorate in $650 gold cuspidors."
The Everleigh Club was described by Chicago's Vice Commission
as "probably the
most famous and luxurious house of prostitution in the
Prior to the opening of the Everleigh Club, Ada was responsible for
recruiting talent for the club. She started by contacting her
former employees in Omaha and spreading the word through brothels
across the country. She conducted face-to-face interviews with all
the applicants. The brothel opened on February 1, 1900 with little
fanfare, and turned away many of the clients who initially appeared
because the Everleigh Sisters did not deem them suitable for the
clientèle they were seeking. Once the club was open, Ada, who was
quieter and more reserved than her sister, took on the
responsibility of making sure the club was kept up to standards.
She oversaw cleaning and renovations. Ada was also very much taken
with the gold leaf piano in the Club and once claimed she rejected
a suitor because he disapproved of the piano.
The club's heyday
The clientèle of the Everleigh House included captains of industry,
important politicians and European nobility and royalty.
their clientèle were Marshall Field, Jr., Edgar Lee
Masters, Theodore Dreiser,
Ring Lardner, John Warne Gates, Jack Johnson, and Prince Heinrich of
The Everleigh club's Japanese throne
By 1902, the club expanded and the sisters were making donations to
the First Ward Aldermen, "Bathhouse" John Coughlin
Michael "Hinky-Dink" Kenna
their continued leeway. After the Club was closed, Minna Everleigh
claimed in testimony that she "always entertained state legislators
free in the club."
On March 3, 1902, Prince
Heinrich of Prussia
visited the Club while in the United States
to pick up a ship built for his brother, German Kaiser Wilhelm II
. Although the
city had sponsored numerous events for Heinrich, his main interest
was a visit to the club. The sisters planned a bacchanalia for the
visiting prince, including dancing, dining and a recreation of the
dismemberment of Zeus
's son. During one of the
dances, a prostitute's slipper came off and spilled champagne. When
one of the prince's entourage drank the champagne, he started the
trend of drinking champagne from a woman's shoe.
On November 22, 1905, Marshall Field, Jr. suffered a gunshot that
would prove to be fatal. Although newspapers reported it was an
accident and occurred at his home, there is some evidence that he
was shot by a prostitute at the Everleigh Club.
The club employed 15 to 25 cooks and maids. Gourmet meals featured
iced clam juice, caviar, pheasants, ducks, geese, artichokes,
lobster, fried oysters, devilled crabs, pecans and bonbons. There
were three orchestras, and musicians played constantly, usually on
the piano accompanied by strings. Publishing houses would publicize
new songs by having them played at the Everleigh Club. The house
was heated with steam in the winter and cooled with electric fans
in the summer.
Standards at the brothel
The Everleigh sisters had standards for their employees:
- "To get in, a girl must have a pretty face and figure, must be
in perfect health and must look well in evening clothes."
- "Be polite and forget what you are here for. Gentlemen are only
gentlemen when properly introduced.... The Everleigh Club is not
for the rough element, the clerk on a holiday or a man without a
- Their employees had to come to the house of their own free
will; the Everleigh sisters would not deal with pimps, panderers,
white slavers, or parents eager to sell off their daughters.
- Girls needed to prove they were 18 years old and undergo
regular exams by a doctor.
- Drug use was grounds for terminating a girl's employment.
This led to many prostitutes
employment with them, as the girls would have a safe environment to
work in, good accommodations, and better clientèle. When Everleigh
House opened, admission was $10 (the equivalent of $246 in 2007),
dinner was $50, a bottle of champagne $12. Private time with one of
the girls was another $50. The prices only went up from there, so
that it was difficult for a caller to leave without spending at
least $200. A decent working wage at the time was $6 a week.
Closing the brothel
Following a 1910 Vice Commission report that noted there were
nearly 600 brothels in Chicago, Mayor Carter Harrison, Jr.
Everleigh Club to be closed on October 24, 1911. The sisters retired
with an estimated million dollars in cash (the equivalent of almost
$22,000,000 in 2007) and traveled in Europe
before eventually changing their name back to Lester and settling
in New York
When their brothel business closed, Ada was
45 years old and Minna was 47 years old.
Minna, always the more outspoken of the two, responded
philosophically, stating "If the Mayor says we must close, that
settles it.... I'll close up shop and walk out with a smile on my
face." And so they did. She later stated "If it weren't for married
men, we couldn't have carried on at all, and if it weren't for
cheating married women we could have made another million."
Shortly after the brothel was closed, Everleigh testified against
Chicago aldermen "Bathhouse"
and "Hinky Dink"
. Although Everleigh announced she would make her
testimony public, threats by "Big Jim"
to kill Minna and her sister if the testimony were
made public kept her silent. Nevertheless, Chief Justice Harry
Olson of Chicago's Municipal Court released her testimony which
outlined the schedule of graft due to the aldermen in return for
allowing operations to continue in the Levee
The building which housed the Everleigh Club was eventually razed
in July 1933. Today, a public housing project stands on the
- Abbott (2007), p. 7
- City of the Century, PBS
- Asbury (1940), p. 250
- Abbott (2007), p. 18
- Abbott (2007), pp. 70-71
- Lloyd Wendt (1974), p. 321
- Abbott (2007), pp. 75-77
- Abbott (2007), pp. 90-91
- Asbury (1940), p. 253
- Abbott, Karen (2007) Sin in the Second City: Madams,
Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul. New
York: Random House ISBN 9781400065301
- Hermann, Charles H. (1945) Recollections of Life &
Doings in Old Chicago: from the Haymarket Riot to World War I;
by An Old Timer (Charles H. Hermann). Chicago: Normandie House; pp.
- Hibbeler, Ray (1960) Upstairs at the Everleigh Club.
- Kanin, Garson (1980)
Smash. New York: Viking
- Masters, Edgar Lee (1944) "The
Everleigh Club" in: Town & Country, April
- Wallace, Irving (1965) The
Sunday Gentleman. New York: Simon & Schuster
- Wallace, Irving (1988) The Golden Room
- Washburn, Charles (1936) Come Into My Parlor: a biography
of the aristocratic Everleigh Sisters of Chicago.
- (reissued under title Bosses in Lusty Chicago, 1967 by
Indiana University Press, Bloomington ISBN 0253201098; reissued as
Lords of the Levee, 2005 by Northwestern University Press,
Evanston ISBN 0-8101-2320-7)