Mollie Adams' lamps

Helen Nash Weathers

Among my most cherished posessions are two brass lamps that belonged to Mollie Adams, Waco's most celebrated Madam.

From 1889 to 1917 she reigned supreme in The Reservation, and area bounded by Washington Avenue, the Brazos River, Jefferson, and North 3rd Street. Her establishment, at 2nd and Jefferson, was the grandest and best-known brothel in Texas. And it was all legal. And it was in rock-ribbed, Baptist, conservative Waco.

Cigar smoke swirled around these lamps in the red velvet drawing room. It was 1910. Mollie's "glory days," and business was good. It was not by chance that "the houses of ill repute" were located by the Suspension Bridge and the city square. That was where the traffic was.

Mollie wore four or five diamond rings on each hand. She was rich three different times. Earlier in the century she traveled to New York with a prominent Wacoan and spent $10,000 in a two-week period. While there, she had a portrait done. It cost $500.

In 1917, Camp MacArthur was built in Waco, The Reservation was declared off-limits to the troops, and the bawdy houses were legally closed down.

Mollie Adams was a colorful, charismatic figure in her hey dey. But she died penniless in 1944 at the McClennan County Home for Indigents. She was 74.

She was given a proper burial at Oakwood Cemetery, paid for by two prominent local businessmen. Others served as pallbearers. Mollie would have liked that.

Waco legend has it that her house was still being operated as late as 1950. The infamous house burned to the ground in 1964.

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