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    Texas | People

    Miss Rita of Beaumont's Dixie Hotel
    The Philanthropic Madam of Oil City

    by John Troesser
    Spindletop painting
    "Spindletop Viewing Her Gusher" - Painting by Aaron Arion
    Courtesy Tyrell Historical Library, 5-03
    Born into a "well-to-do" Oregonian family in the early 1900s, Miss Rita (no last name available) left home to become a dancer and vaudeville performer. For a time she even appeared with the famous Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

    The Great Depression delt a heavy blow to vaudeville and Rita's once-promising career was cut short. During her first marriage (again no last name available) she became a prostitute. The circumstances of her entrance into the profession aren't known, but she soon decided to end her marriage and fled to Beaumont, a town she may have first seen on the vaudeville circuit. There she plied her trade in the Crockett Street area at an adress owned by a Mr. Charles Ainsworth. She took a liking to Mr. Ainsworth's son Nathaniel and the two were wed. Marrying the son of the "landlord" was a sure way out of the business, but not everyone could've pulled it off. Nat and Rita spent some years getting established, but when they had saved enough money, they purchased Beaumont's Shamrock Hotel, a modest hostelry on Bowie Street.
    Crockett Street, Beaumont, Texas
    Crockett Street today
    TE photo 9-04
    Nathaniel died in 1946 and Rita shed herself of the Shamrock and bought the Dixie. Using her refined taste and her hard-won knowledge of the business, Rita decorated the Dixie lavishly and employed unusually attractive and well-mannered women that were sure to produce word-of-mouth advertising.

    Revenue from the hotel provided a comfortable upbringing for Rita's children and she acquired sizeable real estate holdings. Her daughter was sent to a distant Catholic girl's school and it wasn't until she was in her mid-teens that she discovered the real reason the Dixie did so much more business than its competitors.

    The story could've ended there with Rita becoming fabulosly wealthy and retiring to Florida, but she was one of those rare individuals with a social conscience. The third floor of the Dixie Hotel was reserved for older men who had no other place to go. At a time when cheap hotel rooms were a dollar a day - Rita provided lodging (with meals) for seven dollars a month. She gave generously to little-league teams, churches, and even sent a priest through seminary.
    Rosemont Hotel neon sign, Beaumont, Texas

    A downtown relic from the same era as the Dixie Hotel
    TE Photo, 6-02

    In early 1961 when vice and corruption in Beaumont reached such levels where they could no longer be ignored, the quiet operations of the Dixie came to light as well. A five man panel called the "James Committee" held three-days of televised hearings that exposed narcotic trafficing, liquor sales to minors, extensive payoffs to city officials and on the lower end of things - prostitution. An injuction closed the Dixie which then became the "Annex Aparments."

    One of the hazards of running a brothel is how to go about paying taxes. The income can't be declared, and usually by the time the IRS shows up - the taxes have accumulated into a substantial sum. In Rita's case it was $100,000. She was forced to sell off her holdings, except for her home and the hotel.

    In 1976, her failing health forced her to sell the former Dixie to the Gulf States Utilities Company which was then donated to the Beaumont Heritage Society. Mrs. Ainsworth stayed in the care of her daughter until her death in Houston in 1978. There is still enough admiration for Miss Rita for her to be included in a pictorial history of Beaumont - the source from which this information was obtained.

    John Troesser
    Reference:
    Beaumont: A Chronicle of Promise An Illustrated History by Judith Walker Linsey and Elolen Walker Rienstra (P. 116-117) Sponsored by the Beaumont Chamber of Commerce and ther Texas Gulf Coast Historical Society

    Related Story:
    Meeting Miss Rita
    by Frances Giles
    My first and only meeting with Mrs. Rita Ainsworth took place on a hot and humid summer day in southeast Texas. Is there any other kind? I was about 14 years old at the time...

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    Beaumont, Texas | People | "Rooms with a Past" | Columns | Texas

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