In 1928, Stella Darby opened her very own brothel, the Cozy Rooms, when she was still in her 20s. In the lawless Wild West boomtown of Pendleton, Oregon—filled with saloons, opium dens, and brothels—to be so respected was a feat. Situated in the bustling downtown, the Cozy Rooms was the rowdy town’s favorite brothel until it closed in 1967.
Darby was an uncommon madame. Never a sex worker herself, she encouraged the women working for her to get an education, save money, and learn etiquette so they could rise up to higher social stations. Darby successfully won numerous fights with hypocritical city leaders over the decades, and her business survived while others were shut down.
Today, you can visit her brothel through Pendleton Underground Tours, and see touching reminders of the real women who worked in the demanding and often dangerous profession. Sit in the brothel chapel, peek into a working girl’s bedroom, and sneak through the pantry. Once you step outside, you can take a picture with Stella Darby herself. in the form of bronze statue standing proudly outside her brothel.
Know Before You Go
Pendleton Underground runs tours on Monday, and Wednesday through Saturday. Tours are guided and take approximately 90 minutes and cost $15 per person. Check their website for more information.