This article was last modified on July 15, 2012.

Lizzie Allen and Christopher Columbus Crabb

“a Milwaukee girl whose real name was Ellen Williams” [Asbury 138]

“came to Chicago in 1858, when she was eighteen years old, and for a year or two was an inmate of Mother Herrick’s Prairie Queen. Later she moved to the Senate, and about 1865 she invested her savings in a small three-girl establishment on Wells Street. This house was burned in the great fire, but Lizzie Allen had prospered, and in 1872 she built a large two-story place on Congress Street, which she operated for almost twenty years.” [Asbury 138]

The brothel “was handsomely furnished, and its twenty-five to thirty boarders were carefully chosen for their youth and beauty; at one time in the 1880’s more than half of them were said to be under eighteen.” [Asbury 138-139]

She met Christopher Columbus Crabb in 1878, described by Mayor Carter Harrison Jr as “an imposing looking rooster”. Crabb was “a clerk in Marshall Field’s store, making fourteen dollars a week. Later he worked in Mandel’s store. In 1887 Crabb left the mercantile field and entered the real-estate business for the sole purpose of handling Lizzie Allen’s property, which by that time included half a dozen houses and several parcels of real estate. He also became financial adviser to Molly Fitch, from whom he inherited about $150,000 when she died a few years later. About 1888 Crabb and Lizzie Allen built a twenty-four-room house on Lake View Avenue, but were prevented by the police from using it for immoral purposes. In 1890, at a cost of $125,000, they erected an imposing double house at No. 2131 South Dearborn Street”. [Asbury 139-140]

“Lizzie Allen called the resort the House of Mirrors, and occupied it as a bordello until early in 1896, when she leased it to Effie Hankins, and retired after thirty-eight years in the business of prostitution. In March of that year she transferred all of her real estate to Crabb and made a will leaving him everything she possessed. When the will was probated, it was shown that the value of her estate was in excess of $300,000, and some of the newspapers estimated it as high as a million. On September 2, 1896 Lizzie Allen died. She was buried in Rosehill Cemetery”. [Asbury 140]


Asbury, Herbert. The Gangs of Chicago. Northern Illinois University Press, 1986.

Also try another article under Historical / Biographical
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

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