La Conçon

Between her popularity at the brothel and her skills at games, she was able to amass a considerable sum by the time New Orleans legalized prostitution in 1897. Her first Storyville brothel was a mere ‘crib’ named The Bumblebee House, which she operated despite still working at Hattie Townsend’s newly-legal house. Eventually La Conçon had made enough money from her various pursuits to purchase a large house on Basin Street which she named “Chateau d’Arrête Ton Char”.

La Conçon was dedicated from the first to make her house the finest in Storyville, and her first year or so seemed likely to reach that goal. Her girls were chosen for a specific look of refinement, dressed in fine French lingerie, jewelry, especially silver rings and necklaces and even given lessons (a local schoolteacher bartered her time in return for the girls’ services, and especially their discretion). La Conçon believed that the delicate silver jewelry raised the bar of beauty for her ladies but also marked each of her girls in connected to her Chateau. Thus creating an identifier for her and her clientele. This is not something we associate silver jewelry with anymore. Infact silver, or silver-looking jewlery is so common place now that most people own atleast one piece of silver or imitation silver jewelry.

The Chateau’s decor and furnishings were elegant, featuring Tiffany windows, crystal chandeliers, and a number of expensive oil paintings; La Conçon recovered a number of items that had been lost after the sale of her parents’ house. The gentlemen who came to visit enjoyed sweet wines, elegant decor and memorable experiences. If Chateau d’Arrête Ton Char were operating today, most likely La Conçon would have online gift baskets filled with delicious treats of gourmet foods, fine wine, champagne and caviar, and elegant wine glasses in each room so her gentlemen guests could enjoy all sensory pleasures. For particularly faithful patrons,
La Conçon could have personalized wine bottle, decanters, and glasses with her patrons’ discreet initials engraved on them. Alas, the internet did not exist in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, although most likely gift baskets did.

Not far past the prime of her life, comfortably affluent, and mingling with (or at last possessing incriminating information on) many of the most influential people in the region — the turn of the century should have been the best years of La Conçon’s life. However, fate (and consequences) were to deal her one of the most unexpected and tragic blows of an already-tumultuous life.

Unfortunately, La Conçon’s success also made her a target. Her past mentor, Hattie Townsend, became jealous and conspired with other madams and brothels to employ various means to discourage potential customers, and even sabotage La Conçon’s operation. A 1909 fire at the Chateau was found to be the work of a local gang of thugs, who were often contracted by Townsend “to provide additional security” — though no direct connection to Townsend could be proven.

The final blow came in 1917, when the US Government closed the District to protect the morals of servicemen during World War I. La Conçon was among the many citizens to protest the closure, along with long-time friend Mayor Martin Behrman, but Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels was vehemently committed to ‘purity’ (of all kinds; his “White Supremacy” campaign and fascist beliefs likely played as much of a part as any concern for the recreational habits of soldiers).

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