|Hattie Hamilton became one of the most famous madams to run a brothel in New Orleans.|
The three-story brick mansion located at No 21 Basin Street (during the 1880s) was operated by Hattie Strauss. Her establishment was known simply as "Twenty-One".
It was run for a year or so by Hattie Hamilton. Hattie's maiden name was Peacock and she was the daughter of a prosperous shopkeeper of Port Richmond, New York. She married Samuel W. Plume, of that town, in 1855. He took her to Cuba, where a son was born. Plume sent her back to New York when he heard she was listed in a Havana call-house. He came, with his son, to New Orleans a few years later and became a Policeman. Hattie appeared in New Orleans in 1864, in the company of a gambler. Plume divorced her in 1866, when she entered Tillie Phillips's brothel on Rampart Street. Early in 1869, she moved into Julia Davis' place in Customhouse Street. Hattie so impressed the statesman Beares that he took her out of the Davis house, bought her fine clothes, a carriage with a matched pair of horses, and installed her as madame of No. 21 Basin Street. Under her management Twenty-One became one of the most popular brothels in the city. She left the house in the hands of her houskeeper and spent much of her time with Senator Beares on St. Charles Avenue, posing as his wife. Reportedly, in 1870, there was a quarrel between the two and the butler heard a gunshot. Senator Beares was found on a couch dying from a wound in his abdomen, while Hattie sat in a drunken condition. Hattie Hamilton was taken into custody, but never formally arrested, and was released within twenty-four hours. Speculation has it that friends and relatives of Beares feared Hamilton's (and the butler, Robert Phillips') knowledge of secrets related to the Senator that they could not go further with the investigation.
Following this incident in Hattie Hamilton's life, business fell off considerably at No. 21 Basin, and after a year or so she sold the resort and opened No. 158 Customhouse Street. She died in Old Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1882, leaving all her property to David Jackson, owner of the Gem, a concert-saloon on Royal Street. According to the Mascot, Jackson had "looked after her affairs and kept the cash books and accounts" of the brothel; she was said to have been his mistress since 1877. Her estate was estimated at $200,000 by newspapers, but actual inventory put it at $2,149.75 (probate of the will). John J. Plume, her son, contested the will, invoking against Jackson the Louisiana law of concubinage, which prevented courtesans from leaving their property to their lovers. Following payment of debts $719.20 remained, of which $71.92 went to Jackson; one-tenth share of the estate.Sources: Storyville New Orleans by Al Rose, The French Quarter by Herbert Asbury,
Louisiana State Library Archives, Mascot News, Times Picayune News, Blue Books.
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