SKAGWAY, Alaska (AP) — It used to be that paying for sex was not that big of a deal. Right here, in Southeast Alaska.
Men wanted it, women needed money. Wham, bam, thank you Lottie, Hattie, Flo...and what was her name, the one with the black fishnet stockings? If you were a man in Skagway in 1898, you could pick a woman by looking up into the windows of the second story of a building on the corner of Broadway and 7th Avenue.
Over a century later, you can still look up into the second story of the same building. You can still pick a woman, but just in name. The Historic Skagway Inn - a bed and breakfast in what was once known as "Paradise Alley" of Skagway's Red Light District - rents their rooms under the names of the original girls who turned their tricks there: Alice, Birdie, Cleo, Flo, Dottie, Essie, Hattie, Grace, Kitty and Ida.
In researching the gold rush days for her book, "Sin and Grace, a Historical Novel of the Skagway, Alaska Sporting Wars," Catherine Holder Spude located hand-written receipts from the Inn's premises in state archives that had the actual women's names, verifying their authenticity.
The Inn is currently owned and operated by the husband and wife duo Karl and Rosemary Klupar. They have just started their 14th season, opening for the Buckwheat Ski Classic. They close after the last cruise ship leaves the city's docks.
"From what we gather, the city was moving the prostitutes further and further north until they were pushed out of town," Karl said. "This property was established as the Red Light district in 1902.
Karl said that it was the temperance movement that was effective in pushing the women out of town.
The inn has been through numerous transitions, developments and owners.
From what Karl has found through ownership records, a local man purchased the original building in 1908. His family operated the building as a boarding house for more than 40 years.
"After they retired, the next people that owned it turned it into the Skagway Inn, in the early 1950s," Karl said.
The building changed hands at least four more times before the Klupars bought it in February of 1998. For licensing purposes they changed the business name from The Skagway Inn to the Historic Skagway Inn.
The Klupars operate their business in a yin and yang fashion. Rosemary is spunky, vivacious and carefree.
"My family's motto is, 'Often wrong, but never in doubt,'" Rosemary said. "You just don't ever think that it's not going to happen. You just assume that everything will work out."
She is the creative force behind the retail stores the couple also operates, Lynch and Kennedy, and the more gregarious one, flighting around and eagerly sharing and soaking up exchanges with her guests.
"Karl is the systems guy," she said. "He's very operationally-oriented, and he's a pretty linear thinker. I bring the opposite. He's not as social, I'm more creative. You have to have two sides of the coin to make things work, or hire someone to be something you aren't. He's such a structured person and I'm so not."
Karl's background is in hotel administration, in which he holds a degree from Cornell University.
Rosemary's background is in art.
Her talents came in handy. The National Park Service renovated dilapidated historic buildings, and the Klupars put in a bid for the Lynch and Kennedy dry goods store. They won the bid in 1993.