cora and stephen cranehttp://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2008-jan-houston-street-jacksonvilles-red-light-district
Here is a great link to the bordello district on Houston Street.
And here is a great essay from Jaxhistory.comhttp://www.jaxhistory.com/Jacksonville%20Story/Picture%20of%20the%20Court,%20Its%20Ladies.htm
You could say that these bedchambers served as the "offices" for the Court's working girls. The top image was taken in Bedroom #3, and the bottom in #20. Although the establishment averaged about thirteen prostitutes, the number fluctuated. The occurred because of somewhat frequent marriages and because the ladies would accompany their gentlemen friends on long trips, according to Cora's biographer Lillian Barnard Gilkes.
As Mrs. Gilkes has also explained, most of the Court's residents were in their early to mid 20s, age-wise. Although they showed no wrinkles and proved good natured, they all looked older than their years. The women usually hailed from from poor, isolated tenant farms in West Florida, South Georgia, and East Alabama. The majority were barely literate.
The 1910 census yields another look at the Court's inhabitants. Cora is given as the head of the household, and Hattie Mason, as the housekeeper. Nine other women are listed as "roomers," a polite way of referring to the ladies of the evening who lived there. For First Coast researchers who are seeking black sheep in their families, the census does provide the first & last names of the residents in La Villa's "rooming houses." In the red-light district, this term often meant brothels. Interestingly, the Court contained two inhabitants who claimed the first name of "Trixie."
As shown in the 1910 census, Cora probably clipped five years off her age and reported herself as 39. She's indicated as having been born in Massachusetts. Hattie was 38 and also hailed from the Bay State. Cora's occupation was said to be "keeper" of a "rooming house," while's Hattie's was indicated as "housekeeper" and "assist family." All of the Court's residents were white, single females. Excluding Cora and Hattie, one came from South Carolina, one from Maryland, one from Washington, D.C., two from Massachusetts, and four from Georgia. Again omitting Cora and Hattie, the ages of the women were as follows: 20, 24, 24, 24, 26, 28, 29, 29, and 30. (The residents included Edith Gray, a 28-year-old South Carolina native who is not listed as the housekeeper in the census. In actuality, she did serve in this capacity, according to Lillian Barnard Gilkes in Cora Crane: The Biography of Mrs. Stephen Crane. After Cora's stroke in January 1910, she turned over to Edith much of the Court's management. Edith continued with these responsibilities during the last months of the owner's life.)
The Court may've been typical of many bordellos, considering the data from the 1910 census and the info from Lillian Gilkes. Cora's establishment operated during the opening years of the twentieth century, but its ladies still seemed to have largely fit the typical profile of nineteenth-century prostitutes. During the 1800s, most American ladies of pleasure were single females in their teens or early twenties. They were usually native-born citizens, yet recent arrivals to the city. The majority engaged in prostitution for only short periods, for they eventually married or obtained more socially acceptable jobs. It's fascinating to note that an amazing number of young females in large cities labored in the world's oldest profession, according to the website "The Reader's Companion to American History." The nineteenth century figure stood at about 5 to 10 percent. Women could earn twice as much in one night at a brothel as they could in one week at a factory or in a service occupation.
A strict house mother, Cora Crane tried run a tight ship. Her ladies were expected to check in & out when leaving, for instance. Cora probably also urged them to read books from her personal library (which included many classics), and she encouraged each woman to marry a "Mr. Right," to use a modern term. When weddings did take place, the proprietress would celebrate by sending orange blossoms.
The suicides of several of the city's soiled doves, nevertheless, saddened Cora. We often use colorful euphemisms when referring to old-time prostitution, but these deaths showed that there was little picturesque about the life. No doubt yesteryear's prostitutes suffered much of the same emotional baggage carried by the streetwalkers along Phillips Highway today.
When temperance crusader Carry Nation raided the Ward Street bordellos in 1908, consider the reactions of the fallen women at the New York House. The next day, the Times-Union reported what had happened. If the article is not overblown, then it's interesting how quickly the ladies broke down to Mrs. Nation's exhortations:
"Here Mrs. Nation received her first cordial reception. The inmates of the house evidently considered her a curiosity, but when she began to talk, it did not require the utterance of many words before it was seen that her remarks were proving effective. At this juncture, Mrs. Nation requested the newspaper men to leave the room, and closing the door of the ballroom, in which she was talking, she lectured for a quarter of an hour to the girls. Her words evidently made a deep impression. With tears streaming down her cheeks, Mrs. Nation left this resort, thanking the inmates for the kind treatment and consideration shown her and party."