The History of the Bell Rooms Part II

After Redding’s red-light district was rebuilt following the fire of September 1908, things continued much as they had in previous years. There were attempts to regulate the saloons and occasional attempts to close down the cribs and bordellos, but not much came of it. In 1914, the people of California passed the Red Light Abatement Act by ballot measure, but Redding’s red-light district continued merrily along, occasionally closing briefly under state or local pressure, but rarely for long.

Accounts of thefts, fires, and violence in the red-light district were a staple in newspapers throughout the years. Interestingly, unlike many of its neighboring saloons and hotels, Chadwick & Freitas’s little two-story brick bordello kept a low profile, and rarely appeared in the papers. Perhaps that’s how it got its first known recorded name: The Q.T. [1. Courier-Free Press, 8 July 1927]

In 1919, the 18th Amendment was ratified, and prohibition went into effect in January of the following year. It was about as effective locally as Red Light Abatement Act. In July 1927, the little two-story building made the front page of both of the local daily papers for a Volstead Act violation [2. Courier-Free Press, 8 July 1927] [3. Searchlight, 8 July 1927]. According the articles, the building was occupied by a man named George Peck and his wife or housekeeper (accounts vary) and, according to the Searchlight, the building was operating as a blind pig [4. Ibid]. Two local law enforcement officers had obtained a search warrant and knocked on the door. When Peck saw the officers, he called “just a minute” and secured the heavy chain on the door.

As he did this, his female companion rushed upstairs and began to pour several gallons of liquor out of the second-story window into the alley.… Read the rest

The History of the Bell Rooms, Part I

The history of the latest building threatened with demolition in Redding goes back to September 23, 1908, when a massive fire swept Redding’s red-light district, causing $70,000 in damages [1. Courier-Free Press, 24 September 1908] . Several blocks of buildings were leveled, among them warehouses, breweries, saloons, hotels, and a group of “ramshackle crib buildings” that were the property of Freitas and Chadwick [2. Searchlight, 25 September 1908].

These ramshackle cribs dated back to 1900, when the area outlined in red in the adjacent picture, known as Block 13 on Redding’s original plat, was removed from Redding’s fire district following a petition to the city board of trustees by Frank Chadwick. [3. Searchlight, 5 June 1900] Soon afterwards, it was announced that the existing red-light district and its inhabitants would be relocated from  their location on the alley of the block bordered by California, Market, Shasta, and North Streets to tenements hastily constructed on Center Street [4. Searchlight,  6 July 1900]. Less than three week later, a mysterious fire leveled The Alley [5. Courier-Free Press 26 July 1900] and the few “dressmakers” that weren’t burnt out were forced to move by the city attorney [6. Searchlight, 1 Aug 1900]. Although accusations of arson and slander flew fast and furious, and property owners adjacent to the new cribs on Center Street initially objected, this arrangement continued until the fire of September 1908.

Within a day or two of the 1908 fire, the city board of trustees was talking about requiring the property owners to rebuild in brick [4. Searchlight, 25 September 1908] Insurance adjusters arrived in Redding on September 26, but the property owners could not clear their lots and start rebuilding until the adjusters’ work was done. In the meantime, Chadwick and Freitas enclosed their lot with a “high board fence” and announced their intention to rebuild in brick [5. … Read the rest