The owners of the Dumas Brothel in Uptown Butte hope to sell a duplex and use the proceeds to pay off $64,000 they still owe on a $67,000 loan they got from the Urban Revitalization Agency.
The agency’s board agreed to the plan Tuesday, giving owners Michael Piche and Travis Eskelsen 90 days from the time of listing to sell a duplex at 409 W. Mercury St. and make good on the loan.
The board gave them the loan in March 2015 to help them consolidate debt on the famous brothel, which was in danger of being taken over by the county because the previous owner owed three years in back taxes.
The pair made at least 12 monthly payments on the loan and have made significant improvements to the old building at 45 E. Mercury St., but have missed many payments since then, said URA Director Karen Byrnes.
“They did pretty well for a little bit but they ran into some hard times and troubles, and now it’s to the point where we need to satisfy our obligation,” said Byrnes, who also oversees the county’s Community Enrichment Department.
Without the original loan, she said, “that building was in danger of being a lost resource” because of owed back taxes and liens.
Before Piche and Eskelsen bought the Dumas in 2012, previous owner Rudy Giecek neglected to pay property taxes for three years, records show.
Piche said later Tuesday that despite troubles with loan payments, he and Eskelsen have put thousands of dollars and much labor into the building. It is 127 years old, and when they bought it, bricks were literally out into the street, he said.
“The difficulty in all of this has been the many sacrifices me and Travis had to make,” he said. “The Dumas was in such disrepair, barring our acquisition of it, it would have been to the point of no return.”
The Dumas was founded by French Canadian brothers in 1890 and was a mainstay in Butte’s “Red Light District.” It operated as a brothel until 1982, long after prostitution was made illegal, and was regarded as the longest-running establishment of its kind in the U.S.
It is currently a museum open for tours from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, Piche said, and tours can be arranged at other times at thedumas.com website.
Major work has been done over the past six years, he said, including improvements to the façade, straightening the foundation, plaster, drywall and other interior repairs and significant wiring and plumbing.
Stories of paranormal activity at the Dumas go back decades and have been featured in television shows in recent years. Piche said their ultimate goal is to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast.
He said he and Eskelsen acquired their duplex on West Mercury through a “developer’s packet” with the county in which they paid $500 with pledges to make improvements.
They had done that, he said, and he hopes the duplex will fetch more than $64,000 so the additional money can go toward more work at the Dumas.