This material is from the Fred Mazzulla collections held by History Colorado. All requests for copies of this material or permission to publish or use it in any form must be directed to History Colorado.
(click on each image for a larger view)
Laura Evans (1871-1953) was Salida’s most prominent madam. She conducted business from what is now the current home of the Mon-Ark Shrine Club on West Sackett. The cribs were located directly across the street. Link here to Ms. Evans’ obituary.
History Colorado has graciously agreed to let the Salida Library place transcripts of interviews between Laura Evans and her attorney, Fred Mazzulla on our website. See below for transcript links and more photos of Laura Evans.
Brother John Armstrong wrote an essay about Ms. Evans’ life. Link here to read Brother John’s essay.
Here is a useful link with photos and history of Ms. Evans’ parlor house.
Home of the Wurlitzer PianOrchestra in Salida, Colorado (Evans purchased this Wurlitzer in 1914; the link includes photos of her parlor house and the cribs across the street.)
And: Evans vs. Evens. How did Laura Evans spell her last name? The Mechanical Music Press has an answer:
Laura Evens, Salida, Colorado
(Sold by The Knight-Campbell Music Company, Denver Colorado)
Laura Evens, of Salida, Colorado, bought the Wurlitzer 30A PianOrchestra, #3750, on 1/4/14, from The Knight-Campbell Music Company, 1625-1631 California Street, Denver, Colorado. She paid $3,150.00 for it, a very pricey sum at the time. Laura Evens was well known throughout the Colorado frontier mining towns as being a feisty, notoriously outspoken woman, as well as being a fun-loving prankster, who was often as foul-mouthed as she was generous. As a madam, she operated a “first class parlor,” one that catered to a wide range of “gentlemen” clients, which reportedly including influential townspeople and politicians alike.
There has been some debate over the correct spelling of Laura Evens’ name. Is it Evens, or is it Evans, a common way of spelling it? On surviving Knight-Campbell Music Company receipts the spelling is consistently Evans. However, her attorney, Fred M. Mazzulla, of Denver, Colorado, when contacted in the early 1970s insisted that her surname was correctly spelled Evens. As such, it will be presumed that her attorney, who knew Laura Evens personally and professionally, spelled her name as she so wanted. Thus, for this historical accounting her purported surname will be spelled Evens.
Where the person later known as Laura Evens was born is unknown, although she admitted to having a “Southern” upbringing. It was probably around 1890, in St. Louis, Missouri, when she officially took up the profession of being a prostitute. At about the same time she also changed her name to Laura Evens. Circa 1893, she moved to Leadville, Colorado, and spent the next few years living a riotous lifestyle, indulging in a long series of ill-fated pranks and finally a “smuggling” incident that got her blacklisted by the Miner’s Union. Her popularity in town on the wane, Laura sought out another town that offered a rich source of clientele, but men other than miners. The town of Salida, Colorado, was the perfect location for her, whereupon, circa 1898, Laura was back on “the line,” satisfying the local gentry. Then, about 1900, Laura’s ambitions evolved into owning her own parlor house, whence she became a full-time “madam.” Her new establishment was located on Front Street, in Salida, not far from the bustling railroad center for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, a complex of buildings that included a depot, shops, a large roundhouse and extensive maintenance facilities. Thus, the area offered a plentiful and diverse source of male clientele.
As her business prospered, a building across the street, consisting of a row of “cribs,” was purchased in 1906. Business continued to prosper, and in January of 1914 Laura purchased a large and impressive Wurlitzer style 30A Mandolin PianOrchestra, which was situated in her main parlor room. The orchestrion provided a source of musical entertainment, and Laura is reported to have insisted on only the most lively of tunes, to hasten the “turnover” of business patrons. How many times the huge PianOrchestra was serviced while at Laura’s place is unknown, but it was extensively repaired at least once, in March of 1924. The repairman, traveling from Denver, stayed at a conveniently situated hotel in Salida, The Palace Hotel, across the street and in the same block. For train fare, room and board, materials, and a total of twelve days of labor, Miss Laura was charged a total of $234.68. This bill and a copy of the original Knight-Campbell Music Company 1914 sales invoice can be viewed by clicking on the invoice thumbnail at right.
Her “business office” was a large bedroom on the ground floor, opposite the large front parlor room, where she greeted guests and patrons. Laura was a slim woman, with large and expressive eyes. She enjoyed rolling her own cigarettes and telling stories about herself and others, some that were probably true, others malicious, and many of them of questionable authenticity. Laura’s parlor was finally closed down in 1950 by edict of Salida’s town council. After that, Laura rented out rooms to local railroad men, whom she enjoyed as card playing companions right up to the end. Cemetery records show her birth date to have been May 31st, 1874, and her death date as April 4th, 1953. If the birth date is correct Laura Evens would have been 79 years old when she passed away.
History Colorado has more photographs and information on Laura Evans. Contact them here.