Once in a while, you come across something that for all purpose doesn’t sound great but turns out to be. So on a family Alaska cruise, I saw a signed that said.
$5 for Fifteen minutes (Just like in 1898).
We had just met at the Red Onion Salon in downtown Skagway, Alaska for some refreshments when the sign caught my attention.
The Red Onion Saloon, off of 2nd and Broadway, claim to fame is that it is the oldest brothel and saloons in Alaska.
A brothel that is boasting $5 for fifteen minutes – kind of sketchy. So I do what any morally sound person would do, I took a shot of liquid courage (Gold Rush Brewery Root Beer), walked up to the bar and I slapped $5 on the counter and said sign me up!
Before you click away thinking that this is going to become rated X – what it meant was a 15-minute tour through the history of the brothel and the upstairs rooms. No girls are working are there!
The Red Onion hasn’t been a brothel in many ages, but it did find its niche as a one of kind tourist traps, saloon and a great place to meet after exploring Skagway. This place will send you back to the area of miners when Alaska was more of a frontier and less civilized.
There are a restaurant and bar, where ‘saloon’ girls will serve you American bar food and drinks. It was nothing to write home about on food quantity, but the atmosphere make-up for it. You feel like you are sitting in a wild saloon with bar fights, a lively piano, poker game, and the occasional trips upstairs to have some fun.
The building creaks and groans and the smell of polish wood and alcohol floats in the air.
The tour starts on the staircase, and you get a little about the history of the building and the Red Onion Saloon. Then you head upstairs to see the rooms that the working girls would have had to conduct their business.
There are about 10 ‘cribs’ up there, small rooms that the girls would have used for business. These rooms were big enough for a bed, and not much else. The girls lived and worked in these chambers.
Our tour guide showed us the walls, which had many different layers of wallpaper. She explained to us that each of the rooms would have been decorated by the girls, very elaborately.
Included in the tour was two of the Red Onions one of a kind unique objects. One was a doll, and the other was a silver nightgown dress from the turn of the century.
Our tour guide explained that the dolls were originally behind the bar. The dolls were painted to look like the ladies who worked upstairs. If you were a lonely miner looking for some love. You would pay the bartender your $5 and choose a doll. The bartender would put the doll down, showing that the girl was unavailable because she was conducting business. You would head upstairs for your 15 minutes. Once you came back downstairs, the bartender would stand the doll up again, signaling she was open for business.
Upstairs among the antiques are also painting of ladies, done by different artists. Some of them a little risqué.
At the end of the tour (which is exactly 15 minutes), the tour guide brought us down stairs again.
I will have to admit; it was very entertaining and somewhat embarrassing, but totally worth the $5.
So next time you are in Skagway on a cruise or just passing through, stop at the Red Onion Saloon for some good old fashion moral corruption and a Shady Lady (the pizza!).