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Historic Myth-Busting in Breckenridge, CO: Was the Hearthstone Restaurant building a brothel?

The Hearthstone building was once a brothel, the rumor-mongers say. But is it true? The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance is here to set the record straight. In this series we bust myths perpetuated by years of story telling and conflicting accounts. In today’s article, we address the long-standing rumor that the building that houses the Hearthstone Restaurant at 130 South Ridge Street was once a “House of Ill Repute.” We understand how that tale got started, and it offers a fascinating peek into Breckenridge’s modern history.

The Hearthstone Restaurant today is a charming Victorian home-turned-restaurant on a prominent hill overlooking Ridge Street with dazzling views of the Ten Mile Range. The interior evokes the Victorian era with handsome woodwork, carved stair railing, small rooms offering intimate dining experiences, and a commodious bay window looking over Breckenridge. The Hearthstone is one of Breckenridge’s longest running restaurants, serving fine food since 1989.

Long before it was The Hearthstone Restaurant, the original structure was built as a private home in 1885. Johann Christian “Christ” Kaiser bought the house in 1891 for his wife and growing family.

Christ Kaiser came to Breckenridge in 1879 in the early days of the mining boom. A German immigrant,

he brought his knowledge of butchery and animal husbandry to provide a necessary service in growing

Breckenridge. The Kaiser Market on Lincoln Avenue sold meat at retail and wholesale. However, he was

not always financially successful as he was known to have a generous heart, helping families in need,

grubstaking miners, and using his delivery wagon to move equipment and supplies for others. In 1886 he married Ida Sandell in a ceremony officiated by another Breckenridge pioneer, Father John L. Dyer.

In one of the most famous stories of the Kaiser family, Ida Kaiser’s pet milk cow was sacrificed for meat during the Big Snow winter of 1898-99. The town was running out of food because the railroad could not reach Breckenridge for several months due to the snow blockade.

Through the years, the Kaiser family endured in Breckenridge. Two of Ida and Christ’s sons remained in Breckenridge. The youngest, Carl Kaiser, became an attorney and built a Craftsman-style home in 1917 for his wife at 126 South Ridge Street, next door to the parents.

The Kaisers were important and beloved members of the Breckenridge community for many decades, serving on the school board, as leaders in the Masonic lodge, and as a County Commissioner. Christ and Ida Kaiser’s original family home, location of today’s Hearthstone Restaurant, sold out of the family in 1967. Son Carl Kaiser’s home was the last to go when his widow died in 1974.

In 1967, Breckenridge was just beginning to blossom as a ski town. The Breckenridge Ski Area opened in 1961 and slowly but gradually capital investments came to Breckenridge along with the growth of the ski business.

Andrea Dewey, a woman with Texas-money and a vision for the future of Breckenridge, bought the Kaiser family home in 1967. She opened a restaurant called The Filling Station. In stories shared by Breckenridge long-timers for the Mather Archives Oral History Project, many recall vintage visible glass gas pumps along Ridge Street to complete the theme.

But Andrea’s dream was not fulfilled. She was described as a larger-than-life character. One narrator for the Oral History project offered: “She would have been a madame in another era.” Andrea thought that Breckenridge needed a brothel, or at least a restaurant that looked like one. Breckenridge was less tame in the 1970s, caught somewhere between the Wild West and today’s ski business catering to multi-generational family vacationers.

The old Kaiser home was extensively remodeled in 1978 and unveiled as Andrea’s Pleasure Palace. Waitresses dressed like Victorian-era floozies. Desserts had sexual connotations. Risqué wallpaper decorated the bathrooms. And Andrea offered a room for rent behind the bar that she called “The Naughty Room.”

image (l) copyright Alden Spilman; courtesy Dr. Sandra F. Mather Archives

Andrea’s Pleasure Palace didn’t last long and closed after just a few years. The building continued as a restaurant though, housing Whitney’s Steakhouse and the Mountain Rose Restaurant, before the successful ownership of The Hearthstone beginning in 1989. Andrea Dewey left Breckenridge and moved to Santa Fe, NM, where she passed away in 2016.

The Kaiser family would likely be appalled to hear that their former home was rumored to be a brothel. They were upstanding citizens, dedicated to growing Breckenridge as a place for businessmen, miners and families. Andrea Dewey had a different vision for Breckenridge, and while she desired to create a place of decadence, she did so legally. The Kaiser Home, today the Hearthstone Restaurant, was never a brothel.

To learn more about early Breckenridge, take the Walk Through History Tour. Or learn about Breckenridge’s prostitutes, gambling, saloons and dance halls on the Behind Swinging Doors Saloon Tour offered weekly by the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance.

written by Leigh Girvin

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