Most people know the stories of what Miss Hattie’s was and used to be. Although, if you don’t know the story, it is an interesting one about the wild west and San Angelo’s rich history.
For about 50 years, before 1952, Miss Hattie’s was known in San Angelo as a bordello, and it was a famous one at that. Men in the town would have a craving, but wouldn’t want to be seen going into a brothel, especially if they were leaders or figureheads in the town. So tunnels were put in underground that lead from different buildings of the town. There are rumors that there is an intricate tunnel system that connects many basements under famous building in our San Angelo’s downtown. The most famous idea of these tunnels came from the fact that today’s Miss Hattie’s Restaurant and Cathouse Lounge used to be a bank and a couple doors down where Legend Jewelers stands, used to be the bordello on the top floor.
There are also pathways in the basement of the building across the street. What is now Jessie Rose Mercantile used to be John Fitspatrick Saloon in 1884. In the basement are four blocked off and boarded up sections, which look like entryways to the famous tunnels everyone in the town has spoke about.
The tunnels have always been something people in this town talk about because of the rich history they are tied to. They were used to store horses underground so Cherokee Indians didn’t steal them. The tunnels also became a big part of the Prohibition Era, and people would hide and transfer the illegal alcohol through the tunnels, or so has been said.
“There is just a lot history that we really can’t validate,” said Mark Priest the owner of Legend Jewelers and the Bordello Museum above the jewelry story. “I think a lot of that has to do with that the people are still alive and that relates to families, which is a line we aren’t going to cross.”
The Hattons were the young couple who bought the building as an upstairs and downstairs. Downstairs Mr. Hattons ran his business, and Mrs. Hattons used it to let their guests stay upstairs. The couple filed for divorce and Mr. Hattons kept the downstairs and Mrs. Hattons kept the upstairs in the settlement agreement. Because of all the space and successful other bordellos, Miss Hattie turned to the oldest profession for women.
Before the Miss Hattie’s museum opened, the back two rooms of the building was filled with different furnishings and items from when the Bordello was up and running. When Mark Priest brought the building, he turned it into a museum of artifacts from the period when the call girls were conducting their work right in the center of town. Police reports showed that some of the girls that worked at Miss Hattie’s were arrested for vagrancy. The brothel wasn’t closed down until 1952 though, when the Texas Rangers had to come in and shut the operation down.
Barbara Strain, the owner of Sassy Fox and the Jessie Rose Mercantile, said, “We really can’t wait for the excavation because it would be great to see what is hiding in these tunnels.”
This is going to be a great discovery into San Angelo’s past, and Barbara Strain is happy to share it on June 16 because the building will be a part of the San Angelo Downtown Stroll.
She said, “It will be a night of revealing hidden secrets in San Angelo.”
Jessie Rose Mercantile workers have put up a GoFundMe page so that people can donate to the exciting new discovery of the secret paths underneath our feet.