The Green Lantern
A stone wall and empty sign post are the only visible exterior to what was once the nicest brothel in Ely, Nevada.
“Bronc Alley” is the name given to the west end of Ely, Nevada’s High Street. Throughout the mining and railroad town’s history, brothels flourished in a couple different sections in town, though Bronc Alley was the heart of its Red Light District. Today, active houses of prostitution along this section of High Street continue to bathe adjacent Highway 50 in red neon. However one former brothel remains empty and slowly falling to the elements.
Opened in 1959, The Green Lantern was considered the nicest of the town’s operating brothels. A spacious bar occupied the front room, and passengers on the frequent tourist excursion trains running the Nevada Northern Railway lines from the East Ely Railroad Depot could often catch the workers waving from the brothel’s front doorway as the trains ran past.
High Street has traditionally been Ely’s Red Light District since the town incorporated in 1887. Brothels, along with dance halls and saloons occupied a stretch of about three blocks. The opening of the Green Lantern stems from the operation of the town’s oldest brothel, The Big 4 (opened in the 1880’s as Rainey’s Dance Hall). During the late 1950’s, the Big 4 was the only open and operating brothel, however later in the decade was forced to close after being found a public nuisance. During this time competing players were granted a license to build a new brothel, and The Green Lantern would open for business. Eventually the owners of the Green Lantern would purchase the Big 4 building and reopen the closed brothel.
The early Green Lantern building was called the nicest brothel in Ely, with a spacious bar, works of original artwork decorating the walls, and a former owner’s claim – though unconfirmed – that Frank Sinatra would fly to Ely to visit the establishment in order to enjoy a brief escape from the noise and activity of Las Vegas.
In July of 1971, the Green Lantern caught fire – believed to have been arson though no official cause of fire determination was ever made – and completely gutted the structure. The brothel was rebuilt, but this time composed of several trailers and temporary structures connected to one other.
Customers watched the lineups in a room adjacent to the bar.
The Green Lantern carried on, often with more working girls than the neighboring brothels, though by comparison the town mostly contained smaller houses – rather than the larger brothels operating closer to Nevada’s cities – with only a couple girls working at any given time.
In 1995, the Green Lantern was shut down due to drug charges, when management was found to have been holding onto medication prescribed to former workers and distributing it to current workers.
The Green Lantern would permanently switch off its red light in 1999. The building has remained empty, the makeup of its temporary structures showing increasing signs of weather and wear to Ely’s elements since then.
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