Miss Rita of Beaumont's
The Philanthropic Madam of Oil City
Viewing Her Gusher" - Painting by Aaron Arion |
Courtesy Tyrell Historical
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.|
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.
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.
A downtown relic from
the same era as the Dixie Hotel
TE Photo, 6-02
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.
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.
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
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...
Texas | People
with a Past" | Columns | Texas