Fannie Porter - San Antonio's Famous
Running one of the most luxurious brothels in
at the turn of the century was Madam Fannie Porter. Fannie was born in
England in February, 1873 but moved to the United States with her
family when she was just one year old.
As a young teen she married, but by the time
the Wild Bunch were making their way to
Antonio in the late 1800’s, she was widowed, running the
successful bordello, and gladly welcoming the
into her fold.
Antonio's Second Ward at the corner of Durango and South San Saba
Streets, the house was built in 1893 and "advertised” itself as a
"boarding house.” Fannie, herself, was mentioned in various city
directories from 1890 until 1902.
The house was said to have boasted fine glass fixtures, silk sheets
and plush carpeting, and for her "special customers,” including members
of the Wild Bunch, she served chilled champagne.
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years, the brothel served as a rest stop, hideout, rendezvous, and
and the rest of the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. In fact, it was here that
Harry Longabaugh, better known as the
Sundance Kid, is thought to have met Etta Place. According
to some accounts, the beautiful
Etta was working at Fannie’s place as
either a prostitute or chambermaid and it was Longabaugh who set her
up as teacher so she could start a new life.
Harvey Logan, known as
Kid Curry, also met his girl,
Annie Rogers, at Fannie’s brothel.
Wild Bunch, photo taken in Fort Worth,
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Though Fannie was well-connected and operated the
brothel for the most part without interference from the law, she does show
an arrest for "vagrancy” in the late 1880’s. "Vagrancy” was the term
generally used in police reports to describe prostitution at the time. On
the other hand, Fannie, who was described as a "hard and shrewd woman” was
also known to chase police officers from her place with a broom.
census was taken in 1900, Fannie’s "boarding house” was called home to
five women, ranging in age from nineteen to twenty-four.
The last time that the
Wild Bunch is known to have visited her brothel was in February, 1901,
when they were between the bank robberies in Winnemucca,
With the law on their heels, the gang planned to split up and head in
different directions. But before they rode out for the last time, Fannie
threw them a going-away party.
That same year, William Pinkerton, founder of the
Pinkerton Agency, paid
her a personal visit. She was said to have liked Pinkerton because he
"treated her like a lady."
Not long after the
were either rounded up or disappeared, moral reform began to turn against
openly operating brothels. Fannie closed her house and faded from history.
However, some historians believe that she retired a rich woman.
Speculation abounded that she had married a wealthy man, other rumors
indicated that she went into seclusion in Texas, while yet others say she
returned to England. No one really knows. Later rumors said that she died
in a car accident in El Paso around 1940.
In 1914, the building
that housed Fannie's brothel was purchased by the Carmelite Sisters of
Divine Charity and operated as a day care center. Today, the building is
said to still exist within a newer structure that is the site of Girls &
Boys Town of
at 503 Urban Loop (formerly known as San Saba)
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