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A Little History

Discover Belmont's champion, Bessie O'Brien and her mysteries of the past. Today, the Belmont stands for female empowerment, giving voice to the silenced women who made their beds here so long ago. If you come for a visit, you may even see or hear their spirits upstairs.

The Early Days

 

The Belmont Hotel was reportedly built in 1920 to house visiting executives of the Belmont Mining Company. The Belmont Mine opened and closed within the decade. During the 1930’s, the second floor of this hotel was widely known as a house of prostitution. The Madam of the house was well known, respected, and well-liked. Her name was Bessie O’Brien. She was a quiet woman who conducted herself with professional dignity.

In 1968, Tom Fulbright, Attorney and Pinal County Politician, immortalized Bessie in his book “Cow-Country Counselor.” Fulbright described Bessie as a classic old-time madam that everyone knew. Regarding the brothel, Fulbright wrote, “Everyone in town, including the kids and respectable women, knew where it was. It was opened with the blessing of the Magma Copper Company and all Law Enforcement Officers in Superior, including the Pinal County Sheriff in Florence."

 

Fulbright describes the narrow stairs that led up to Bessie’s parlor and recalls that anyone who started up the dimly lit stairs was greeted by eight or ten of her yapping, snarling, barking, little dogs. He tells of the regular Monday morning trips where Bessie and her “girls” would march up and down Main Street shopping in all the stores. They were not to speak to anyone in public.

One excerpt from Fuller’s book reads, “There was a period when practically all the men politicians in the courthouse at Florence joined the Knights of Pythias in Superior. After three meetings someone would say. “Let's go up and visit Bessie a while.” We would, and these were purely social calls. Bessie was always glad to see us, and when the visit was concluded, we returned to Florence.”

Bessie finally became too old to continue as Madam. She moved to the Globe-Miami area where she died shortly thereafter. According to Fulbright, “Her dying request was to be buried in Superior.” He reported it was one of the largest funerals Superior had ever seen. Scores of people, particularly miners, remembered when Bessie had staked them money to tide them over between paydays or between drinking sprees.” So, Bessie was buried in Superior, the town which she loved and where she had been in business for so many years.

Senior residents of Superior today recall Bessie marching her “girls” up and down Main Street once a week to visit the doctor and shop. They were not allowed to speak to community members and were largely ostracized for their profession.

At some point, the establishment enclosed the back stairwell for added privacy. Senior citizens tell the current owner that the men visiting the brothel did not want their wives getting jealous and upset at witnessing them climbing up and down the two flights of stairs. Prior to the added privacy, sometimes wives would sit on benches behind the building to watch in scorn.

Albo Guzman, current Superior resident, remembers brothel services costing $5, which was “high-end” compared to the rates of $3 for brothel workers up the hill in Globe. Albo used to sit at the bottom of the front stairwell and shine shoes for the men paying visits upstairs. He still possesses his original shoe-shining box.

Some say the women living upstairs would cast coins down to the children. The children would fetch a soda pop or other comforts with the money for the ladies and get to keep a little for themselves.

The building is laden with unique features from Bessie’s time. For instance, it contains an original cast-iron tub as well as interesting remnants of iron pipe and cloth-covered electrical lines abandoned in place. All original structural beams also remain.

Then and Now

Bessie O’Brien is the heroine and historical champion of the Belmont today. She and her ghostly staff are the prime focus of many paranormal investigations that have been held in the building throughout the years.

 

After the brothel’s closure, it changed hands several times for various office uses. During these years, it served as a movie set for several films, including U-Turn and the Gauntlet. For these films, exterior signage was added that has since been removed for a more original exterior look.​

 

Eventually the building was converted to Superior’s Town Hall. It still boasts a grand American flagpole out front as a remnant from this time. The current owner purchased the building directly from the Town of Superior with intent to preserve it’s historical significance as a gift to the community and the world. While all were hopeful to convert the building back to its original use as a hotel, modern fire code and other technical challenges renders this hope economically not viable. However, the structure’s condition would be suitable for museum operations, which is the newly proposed use for the building to honor its historical significance

 

Come back soon to learn more as preservation and museum efforts press forward.

Timeline

1914

1920

1930

1970s

2000's

2010

2020

President Woodrow Wilson grants initial land patent.

Belmont Mining develops the Belmont Hotel to house traveling executives.

Under the direction of Madame Bessie O'Brien, the Belmont Hotel serves as a pastime bar and brothel.

Bessie O'Brien passes, and the Belmont Hotel changes hands several times.

The Town of Superior acquires the Belmont for use as Town Hall.

The Town of Superior abandons the Belmont d, which sits empty and wastes as the years press on.

Mining professional Nicolette Taylor purchases the the Belmont outright in cash and commences returning it to its original condition to preserving its proud history.

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