Fort Bragg’s most famous brothel was reached by a suspension bridge! It was located off of Fort Bragg on a rock at the foot of Pine Street – see picture below. (To read about the Mendocino Coast’s only other suspension bridge click here. At one time Fort Bragg “boasted” of having 37 brothels of which this, The Island of Joy, was one. The suspension bridge pictured below took “patrons” out to the Island. It lasted about a decade until it burned down in 1921. The local paper reported that “the town was blessed” when it burned. The island was dynamited so that it could not be built upon again. The rocks where it once stood are clearly visible at low tide.
You can still see the site of the last brothel in Fort Bragg. Go up Laurel Street – it runs up from the CWR depot – and halfway up the block on the left is an alley. The first building on the right in the alley behind the store is the studio of the well-known local artist Erin Dertner. When Tomas, Erin’s husband, renovated the building he found that it was purpose built for the “trade” and that the “ladies” had left a number of “artifacts” behind in cupboards built into the walls.
The Coast Hotel, on the corner of Franklin and Oak in Fort Bragg is another of the town’s old brothels.
Fort Bragg had over a hundred bars and Saturday nights when “the boys” came in from the woods were definitely “hot”. The Golden West Saloon on Redwood is still there after 100 plus years – see this picture of the interior in 1906. It also had a brothel upstairs. If you venture inside you will find that the interior has not changed much in since this picture was taken.
The “Ladies of the Night” were the subject of an interesting article by Marge Gomez in Fort Bragg’s Real Estate Magazine – click here or the picture on right read it.