The prostitutes of Hotel Wandawega, 1942

Until now, it’s been part myth, part legend, part folklore. We’ve been hearing the rumors for years, from nearly every local of a certain age. But now, we finally know it’s true. With the help of a wonderful volunteer from the Walworth County Genealogical Society, a wealth of newspaper articles dating back to the 20’s have been uncovered. Over the next few weeks, we’ll post some of the juicer articles that have been unearthed. We’re talking Federal raids, Prohibition Padlocks, kidnappings, murder/suicides, contempt of court, illegal liquor, illegal gambling, and “running a bawdy house of ill fame” to name a few. Her name was Anna Beckford Peck, and she was the infamous character behind the tawdry history of Hotel Wandawega. We searched for years with no luck; but being the internet geeks that we are, we relied on search engines. God bless Deb, the aforementioned volunteer, who spent days poring over good old-fashioned dusty microfiche from both Wisconsin and national newspapers.

The first in our series: MADAME ANNA GETS 3 YEARS FOR RUNNING A BAWDY HOUSE OF ILL FAME. (Anna Beckford Peck, nee Anderson, aka “Orphan Annie,” immigrated to Chicago circa 1906 from Copenhagen – a 16 year old Danish girl, adopted by Frank Schoenfeldt – a Chicago Architect. Frank’s wife died shortly after Anna came along. More on that story to come.) For now, let’s jump to the end of her association with what we now know as Camp Wandawega. In 1942, after numerous earlier run ins with the law, Anna is finally sent away to Taycheedah, the infamous Wisconsin Women’s Prison. We plan to get our hands on proper copies of all the old press and post them for your reading pleasure. But for now, a glimpse…

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For reference: BAWDY-HOUSE, crim. law. A house of ill-fame, (q. v.) kept for the resort and unlawful commerce of lewd people of both sexes. 2. Such a house is a common nuisance, as it endangers the public peace by drawing together dissolute and debauched persons; and tends to corrupt both sexes by an open profession of lewdness. 1 Russ. on Cr.; 299: Bac. Ab. Nuisances, A; Hawk. B. 1, c. 74, Sec. 1-5. 3. The keeper of such a house may be indicted for the nuisance; and a married woman, because such houses are generally kept by the female sex, may be indicted with her husband for keeping such a house. 1 Salk. 383; vide Dane’s Ab. Index, h. t. One who assists in establishing a bawdyhouse is guilty of a misdemeanor. 2 B. Monroe, 417.

A little about the prison Anna was sent to: Since the inception of the Women’s prison in 1911, Convicts from the Wisconsin State Prison at Waupun were sent to the site in Taycheedah, then known as Camp Woodward, to build the women’s home- the first inmates were not admitted until 1921. The Home for Women was a reformatory for women between the ages of 18 and 30 who had committed misdemeanors for the first time. In 1933, a separate State Prison for Women was constructed on the grounds at Taycheedah, adjacent to the Home for Women. Until 1945, women convicted of lesser crimes were housed at the Home while more serious offenders were confined in the Prison. In 1976 it renamed the Taycheedah Correctional Institution.

And:  some historic photos from Wisconsin archives: The prison’s in-house work facilities, example mug shot format for inmates, their chain gangs at work, and a view of the grounds:Screen Shot 2013-11-17 at 3.09.12 PM