Grand Canyon's Bordello and Saloon
August Tetzlaff, a German merchant tailor, appeared in Williams around 1895 with a set of plans for a first class, two story bordello and saloon. By building his yellow brick Victorian Romanesque style building across from the Grand Canyon Railway station, he hoped would make his fortune when the rail line was completed to a silver and copper mine to the north of Williams and then on to the Grand Canyon.
The architectural plans were designed to separate the two floors completely, including a subfloor layer of cork to provide soundproofing and an enclosed staircase from the front street. A great deal of thought was put into the layout of the second floor bordello to ensure a smooth operation. The layout featured a central parlor room at the top of the stairs with couches and a cook stove that made this a social center for the gals as well as a place for the cowboys to make their pitch for companionship.
To the right at the top of the stairs the madam had a door to her room that ensured that she was aware of patrons coming and going and was aided in that endeavor by a door buzzer under the third tread at the base of the stairs. Her room was bigger than the standard rooms for the ladies as a bonus for her duties as the business manager.
Towards the rear of the building off of either side of the hall, were four of the five standard rooms, or ‘cribs’ for the girls on the low end of the pecking order. Each of the rooms was ten feet by ten feet in size and allowed room for a bed, armoire, table and chair and while these rooms were large compared to the tiny spaces often provided in this profession, they were smaller than the two rooms allotted the best gals of the house.
Having worked their way up to the front of the house, the best gals were entitled to the largest rooms in the house and first shot at the regulars to the brothel. The ability to hang out the front windows and attract the attention of the passing cowboys, loggers and railway worker was a great advantage for the soiled doves in these front rooms and a great marketing tool for the whorehouse.
Completed in October 1897, Tetzlaff leased the ground floor saloon to Michael Reneke with the brothel upstairs ‘to be held separately’. A year later Reneke sublet the back two rooms and thirty-two feet of the backyard to Fong Chee and Kim Kee, to operate a ‘(pork)chop house and restaurant’. This area included a lean-to BBQ shed, a two hole outhouse and a small ‘apartment’ that operated as an opium den. This little ‘China Town’ along with the rest of ‘Saloon Row’ ensured Williams reputation as one of the toughest towns in Northern Arizona. The huge 1901 fire that burned all of the buildings to the east, also took these structures and the owner’s wood framed tailor shop on the south end of the property. Tetzlaff’s two story brick building stopped this devastating blaze and when it was rebuilt over the next three months, the rest of Saloon Row and the owner’s tailor shop were of brick and rock construction.
One other disaster at this time was the failure of the silver mine to produce usable amounts of ore, causing the Grand Canyon Railroad venture, just four miles short of the Grand Canyon, to go into bankruptcy in July of 1900. In spite of the turbulent economic times the Tetzlaff saloon continued to be leased to a series of saloonkeepers and the bordello above served the local and traveling public while now sporting a new two-story outhouse.
In the 1920’s Prohibition shut down the saloon business for some years and allowed an old Indian scout and wagon driver named Longino Mora to lease the first floor. When he was eighty years of age, his fifth wife Clara gave birth to the last of his twenty five children in the area once occupied by the Chinese restaurant. While he had a small restaurant in the saloon area, Longino soon turned the back door into an entrance for his bootleg liquor and gambling operation that ran for many years until Prohibition was repealed in late 1933. The bordello operation on the second floor continued through this time and imprinted on Longino’s youngest child Carmina, a memory of “how beautiful the ladies smelled”. The upstairs now boasted indoor plumbing with a couple of water closets, a footed tub and a bidet for the ladies. Sometime after Longing’s eldest son took over the saloon, an incident on the stairs up to the whorehouse resulted in the stabbing of a patron who reportedly died on the front sidewalk. This apparently was the last straw for law enforcement and soon after the Saloon Row of bawdy houses, gambling dens and saloons underwent a clean-up.
The 1930’s and 40’s also saw ever increasing throngs of Route 66 travelers passing by the south facing end of the property, Rod Graves gave Tetzlaff’s tailor shop a facelift and opened the Grand Canyon Tavern.
The building’s next tenant was Holmes Supply, the company store for Sante Fe Railroad employees who were strongly encouraged to buy their groceries, tools and clothing here at inflated prices and taken out or their paychecks. The upstairs now served as housing for the store managers and eventually became casual housing for travelers on Route 66.
When I bought the building in 1979 it was boarded up and being used as a warehouse for new tires, shocks and fan belts that a couple of the local service stations were unloading on tourists heading to Disneyland. In 1984, after first remodeling the downstairs into a rustic BBQ joint with west bound Route 66 rolling by the front door, I was able to eventually upgrade the entire building. By 1994 I had completed the major part of the restoration, moved into three of the original cribs as an apartment and turned the rest of the upstairs into a three suite B&B. Within a year the downstairs restoration was completed and it opened as a bakery/coffee shop. In 2015 I finished an addition of a commercial kitchen to the saloon area downstairs and now it now houses the Grand Canyon Coffee and Café. It has now been over twenty years of sharing this old bordello with visitors from around the world and I still enjoy it thoroughly. John Holst