The Castle

A Chestnut Street Saloon. Source: Dacus and Buel, A Tour of St. Louis, 1878

Babe Connor, Madam of The Castle, was born Sarah Connor in Nashville, Tennessee in 1857. Her father was a plantation owner who freed Sarah and her mother after the Emancipation Proclamation. Sarah came to St. Louis and found work in a brothel. Babe was glamorous and high-spirited. Babe purchased a three-story town house near the elegant Southern Hotel and painted it bright white. The Castle was a high-class venue with luxurious rugs, tapestries, and artwork. Madam Connors was a plump, bronze-complexioned woman who was often clad in diamonds, Parisian gowns, and feather boas.

Steamboats brought light-skinned Creole women to work in the Castle. The women advertised the Castle by dancing in the windows.The Castle was also the hangout of many of their pimps, whose fine suits and diamond jewelry made them equally elegant. Men murmured in code as they smoked their after-dinner cigars: "Are you storming the castle tonight?"

Tom Turpin’s career began as a pianist at the Castle and Scott Joplin played there occasionally. Players said you could hear Joplin's latest compositions at Babe Connors’ before he had set them down on paper. The house act at the Castle was Letitia Lulu Agatha Fountaine or Mama Lou. She dressed in a calico dress, gingham apron, and a red bandana imitating a maid’s costume and sang "Frankie & Johnny’" the "Bully Song," "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight," and "Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay." Turpin left Babe Connors to open his own place, Turpin's Saloon, at 9 Targee Street, near the spot where the protaganists of the Frankie and Johnny song lived. He did not remain there long. Soon after, he opened the Rosebud Bar.

The Fabulous Babe Connors of St. Louis,
Babe & Priscilla by Jeannette Cooperman,
The Vapour Trail,
Ray Argyle, Scott Joplin and the Age of Ragtime
Thaddeus Russell,A Renegade History of the United States
David A. Jasen and Gene Jones, Black Bottom Stomp: Eight Masters of Ragtime and Early Jazz