Aspen’s first tax-generating business was not mining, freighting, dry goods or even saloons; it was prostitution. The City of Aspen ordinances adopted in 1880 set aside a special area near the railroad depot for cribs and “female lodging” in order to confine the “trade” to a few blocks and to keep tabs on the disreputable businesses for tax collection. The ladies of the night only accepted cash, unlike most of the other businesses in town so they were the first “businesses” able to pay their taxes.
Bests, Firsts & Worsts: Aspen in Objects explores the area’s unique history told through more than 90 artifacts, each with its own tale that sheds light on the Aspen valley’s bright — and dark — times. The exhibition is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Wheeler/Stallard Museum, 620 W. Bleeker St.