Old Arcade Trading Company

Silverton, Colorado | C.1991

Photo Credit: Kayla Heersink

Underneath its cheery facade as a large novelty gift shop, the Old Arcade Trading Company is built upon a foundation with far more lurid origins—as it inhabits the building formerly used as a bordello.

Before t-shirts and cowboy hats adorned displays within its interior, the Old Arcade Trading Company—previously the Old Arcade Reading Post—slung novelties of a different sort. Large pool tables and gambling booths took residence in the front, while in the back, customers could find “cribs”, or small rooms where ladies of the night conducted business.

In the American West during the 19th century, the mining trade wasn’t the only booming business. Sex work, although illegal in many states and territories, was a profitable path for women across the frontier. Like any industry, there were hierarchies; high-class courtesans entertained in upscale parlour houses, while less fortunate girls worked out of saloons, dance halls, or cribs.

The Old Arcade held a few more secrets within its framework. When its current owner purchased the building, a secret room was discovered beneath its floorboards with enough space to house a ladder and three people. All that remained were a few bottles strewn from the Prohibition era, implying the Old Arcade was also a likely stash point for bootleggers.

With those days behind it, the Old Arcade Trading Company now operates as a wholesome, family-run gift shop. Along with its extensive selection of Western relics, visitors can enjoy fudge made on site—a delectable fresh treat to be enjoyed in a town carved out by hardscrabble folks looking to start a new life (while indulging in a few vices of their own) in the American West.

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