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Jeff Smith's Parlor

Soapy Smith considered himself a businessman and opened several saloon, gambling, and cigar establishments in his life-time. Most of these dens served alcohol and games of chance. All were in operation to take in as much money as possible using any means necessary, just short of outright robbery. Some of these establishments were well-known and reported within the pages of newspapers, while other resorts are known only by way of references. Photographs show he often adorned his saloons with US flags and patriotic bunting on the outsides. Only Jeff Smith's Parlor has known photographs of the interior that show patriotic embellishments on the inside walls, as well as the exterior.    




The Tivoli Club
The Silver Club

Later Tivoli Sample Room card (Geri Murphy Col.)

The Tivoli Club (left), circa 1890 (Jeff Smith Col.)

The Tivoli Club opened its doors in 1888 with partner and well-known Denver crime boss, "Big Ed" Chase at 1337-1339 Seventeenth Street on the south-east corner at Market Street in a two story building. The saloon was downstairs while gambling (faro, roulette tables, and a poker room) could be found upstairs. Legend states that for legal purposes, Soapy hung a sign at the bottom of the stairway that read, "Caveat Emptor." One would need to read Latin to know that it means, let the buyer beware. In at least one court case, it is known that Soapy defended the activities inside the Tivoli Club by comparing them to the cures of the Keely Institute. What Keely's was to the alcohol habit, the Tivoli was to the gambling habit.

You see, there are gamblers and gamblers. Now, these crap game men only make tin-horn gamblers, for this reason: When a man runs up against one of them he loses his money slowly, but surely. He wins a little occasionally, and becomes fascinated with the game. Then he winds up by becoming a gambler himself. But when they ‘run up' against me ‘it's off with them.' They're just paralyzed. I take everything they've got in short order, and they just throw up their hands and swear they'll never gamble again-and they don't. I tell you, I'm a reformer,...                           Denver Evening Post, March 18, 1898.

The Rocky Mountain News dubbed the Tivoli Club, "the slaughter pen" due to the violence that occurred there.

The Tivoli appears briefly as the Silver Club in 1890. Perhaps a ploy to separate the two businesses and Soapy's involvement with the gambling end of the business. Soapy tried hard as the years passed to appear (on paper) not to be associated with the clubs but few, including the newspapers, believed him and he continued to be listed as the owner. Amazingly, with all the gunfights and brawls that took place within its walls, future owners kept the notorious name.

1890 Denver Sanborn map, 17th & Market streets
The Tivoli Club and Soapy's office

The following Sanborn insurance map for 1890 shows the location of the Tivoli Club (A) and all its escape routes. The Chever Block (B) shows where Jeff had an upstairs office, as well as (later) the Midway Club. Interestingly enough, these old Sanborn maps also showed the location of brothels, labeling them as "Female Boarding" (C).

The Midway

The Midway Club card (Geri Murphy Col.)

The Midway saloon (red "X") (Denver Lib. Col.)

Little is known of the Midway saloon located inside the Chever Block at 1703 Larimer Street. A business card from the saloon was among the other business artifacts in the Smith family collection.




The White Front

Little is known of this gambling resort resort except that it was part of a mass exodus by the saloon and gaming fraternity in Denver due to reforms against their businesses. Plans were made to make Colfax the "Monte Carlo of Colorado" and this idea was welcomed by the city council at the start, but the little city fathers soon changed their minds.




The Orleans Club


The Orleans Club, 1892 (Creede Hist. Soc.)

Opened in February 1892 the Orleans Club was said to have stayed opened nearly 24-hours-a-day for gambling and drinking. It was located on Main Street, also known as Creede Avenue. Like the Tivoli Club in Denver, the Orleans Club had its share of violence associated with it. Several poems written at the time include the goings on inside the infamous gaming den. The Orleans Club lasted a mere four months when the great Creede fire of June 5, 1892 destroyed the building, along with most of the business district. 




The Klondike
The Klondike saloon was located on the northeast corner of Broadway and McKinney Streets (later named 5th Ave.). In late 1897 it is believed that Soapy owned an interest in the saloon and gambling hall with partners Ira Coslett and a man named Ward. In December the saloon moved into a two story structure on Broadway and Holly Streets (later named 6th Ave.) where a music hall was advertised with the business. It is believed that Frank Reid, one of the men who shot Soapy during the Shootout on Juneau Wharf, worked for him as a bartender.

Clancy and Company
Music Hall and Clubrooms

Clancy and Co. business card (Jeff Smith Col.)

The next saloon interest Soapy invested with was with Clancy's Place operated by two brothers, John and Frank Clancy who added "and Company" to the business name, when Soapy joined the brothers. It was located at Runnals and Shoup Streets (later named 7th and State Streets)

Jeff. Smith's Parlor.

Ad as it appeared in the Skaguay News, 1898

Jeff Smith's Parlor, 1898 (Cynthia Brackett Col.)

The most famous of Soapy's saloons is Jeff Smith's Parlor. It was the only one opened strictly as a saloon, with no gambling allowed inside, and advertising as much. It is also the only one still standing.
In the Spring of 1898 Soapy and the Clancy's split interest in the business building that previously held the First Bank of Skaguay, a false-fronted, single-story wood building located at 317 Holly Street (Block 3, lot 12), just a few doors west of Broadway on the north side. The Parlor, sometimes called "Jeff's place," was known as "the real city hall." The city had a local government that met elsewhere, but many important decisions regarding how business would be conducted within the city were actually made inside the small office of this little saloon.

City records are not clear as to who actually owned the building, but Soapy controlled the business. Changes made to the bank building included moving the front entrance from the middle of the front facade to the far right in order to accommodate the bar. Two widows were moved from each side of the entrance to the left side. A large sign was hung just below the cornice that read, JEFF. SMITH'S PARLOR.. There is little doubt that Soapy ran the place his way. Note the periods after "JEFF." and "PARLOR." The first is easy to explain, as Jeff is short for Jefferson, thus the period made "JEFF." and abbreviation. The second period is a little harder to explain. Retired English Professor Art Petersen could not find a logical reason for it. Personally, I believe it is also an abbreviation of sorts. Perhaps the sign, if published in its entirety, would  read, "JEFFERSON SMITH'S PARLORS." Note the "S" in Parlors. Could the sign painter have run out of room for that last letter? So why add an "S" to "PARLOR?" A nondescript cabin looking building next-door to the saloon is believed to have been part of the business, whether as a store-room, a restaurant (as described in one account), or a gaming den (as described in another account), or perhaps all three.   

Inside the saloon
Soapy stands at his bar

(photo) Soapy stands in the center at his bar with a cigar. Partner John Clancy leans into the photograph to Soapy's right. Nate Pollack tends bar, and back by the stove pipe is believed to be John Bowers. Two other unidentified men stand to the far right. This photograph dates between March and July of 1898. "July 4, 1898" appears at the bottom, but this date is not thought to be exact. It is probable that someone added the date to sensationalize the photograph. Based on the flags behind the bartender, someone in possession of the photograph might have also assumed that they were for the July 4th celebration. A close inspection of the bunting reveals that it contains the U.S. and Cuban flags which signify Soapy's wave of patriotism that accompanied the outset of the Spanish American War, which in April 1898 was at fever pitch. The door to the office is open. A door leading out the rear of the saloon is shut. The light bulbs are exposed. Electricity was expensive, and Soapy no doubt did not want to hide the fact that he had electric lighting or diminish their illumination behind lamp shades.
After Soapy was killed at the Shootout on Juneau Wharf, his partner, John Clancy, took over the business. In quick order, his brother, Frank, opened up The Mirror Saloon. It was renamed Clancy's Cafe and advertised it as a "gentleman's resort." In 1899, under new management, it became The Sans Souci (bastard French for "Without a care"). In its advertisements, this restaurant included an oyster bar. It appears the restaurant did not survive very long into the new century. Photographs indicate that the building itself changed very little during this period.
In the late 1930s Jeff. Smith's Parlor became a Soapy Smith museum. In 2007 the Parlor was purchased and donated to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park. In 2016 Jeff Smith's Parlor opened to the general public as a display on Skagway tourism. Most important is the fact that the Parlor building is saved from total destruction and that future generations will continue to enjoy learning about Soapy Smith.

How the saloon looks pre-restoration

Restored 2016
Jeff. Smith's Parlor

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Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel


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