Business Details

Hotels: Yellow Hotel

219 West First St., Lusk, Wyoming


The Lusk Herald, August 20, 1981


Over 600 buyers from all across the country spent an estimated $275,000 as they purchased items from the Dell Burke estate during the two-day auction held in Lusk last Friday and Saturday.

Charles Christian, owner of Christian Stables, purchased the 418-acre ranch located just east of Lusk for $173,000. Christian said he plans to incorporate the newly acquired property, which completely adjoins his land on the east side, into the total operation of Christian Stables.

The 10-room Yellow Hotel and 11 lots, located on First Street across from the train depot were sold to Joe Madden pf Douglas for $41,5000. According to Lex Madden, one of the estate auctioneers and one of Joe's two sons, plans for the hotel and property are indefinite at this time.

Describing the two-day auction as "an excellent sale", Lex and his 27-year-old brother Shawn of Madden Brothers Actions, put in over 21 hours of auctioneering during the two days of bidding. The sale of personal property at the ranch, held Friday, ran from 2:45 to 8:30 p.m. with the Madden brothers alternating as callers. Early on during the ranch sale, Lex stood on top of an outbuilding to get a better vantage point over the enthusiastic crowd. Dishes, furniture, linens, Christmas decorations and lawn equipment were among the many items sold at the ranch.


During the sale at the old hotel, billed as "one of the most famous bordellos in the Rocky Mountain area" by Madden Bros. Auctions, an estimated crowd of 1,500 people bid on the myriad of items put on the auction block. Both Shawn and Lex simultaneously actioneered for about three hours during the morning; Shawn taking bids on the furniture and kitchen appliances and utensils displayed to the east and est of the hotel. Lex was selling old clothes and lots of shoes, purses and hats at the front of the hotel. Lex said when the hotel auction finally concluded at 9:45 p.m. Saturday, he and Shawn had put in a total of 16 hours of auctioneering in one day.

According to the Maddens and Cody Thompson, an associate of Madden Bros. Auctions, it took a host of people from two to three weeks to prepare for the two-day estate sale, Thompson said. "Things were scattered all over." Boxes and Boxes of things that had been stored away had to be opened and sorted and items such as dish sets split up between the ranch and hotel had to be matched up. anything that was saleable was kept and put up for bids, including a set of upper and lower plates and old brassieres, said Lex. At the end of the auction, nearly 1,300 itmes were listed on 86 buyer sheets, which is an indication of the total itmes sold, but does not include items that were sold in bundles, or lots.

For the Saturday auction, work started at 5 a.m. and Madden said that the sale went smoothly. High school boys and young men helped bring things out from the hotel; clerks were needed; a concession stand was run; people helped watch for bids, and others were inside the hotel "keeping an eye" on things. Help was needed about 8:30 Saturday evening when a rainstorm forced the auction inside, and cases of jewelry yet to be sold and other property to be moved into the hotel so the auction could go on.

Over the years, many local people had wondered what it was like inside the infamous Yellow Hotel and when the auction began receiving national news coverage, many tourists and sight-seers also stopped by to get a glimpse of the 60-year old bordello. While workers were inside the hotel preparing for the auction early last week, waves of people just wanting to look around  were turned way, so preparations could be completed and all the property could be kept track of.

On Friday evening, the hotel was opened for several hours and people, both local and travelers, lined up to pass through the two rooms set up for display with Navajo rugs, pictures and paintings, jewelry and tapestries and various items of clothing. Those overseeing the open house estimated that 1,500 to 2,000 people went through the hotel on Friday and many more lined up Saturday at the hotels' back door to see the hotel contents during the early part of the sale. Overall, Madden said he thought more out-of-towners than local residents bought things during the auction. The real estate was sold to a local rancher, and a man with local ties bought the hotel. Dell Burke's personal car was purchased for $2,500 by local merchant Merle Hahn, but the majority of items left the Lusk area, Madden said.


"Generally , I think things went outrageously high," said Lex, "but I think people were pleased with what they got." Some of th items sodl included a brass ashtray formed with a figure of a nude lady that went for $410; The Mills studio, $5,500; Wurlitzer juke box, $3,600; parlor lamp, $495; large tapestry, $1,175; and the hotel bell system, $850.

Cody Thompson said "The crowds were the best ever. They stayed with us the whole time and never quit." As darkness fell Saturday evening, the crowd had dwindled, but there was still a large gathering that stayed despite the rainstorm and watched the legacy of Dell Burke end with the conclusion of the auction at 9:45 p.m.

Among those who watched and bought a part of Dell Burke's memory were two of Dell's heirs, grandnieces, Loraine Fisher of Mt. Clemons, Mich., and Norma Vecellio of Sterling Heights, Mich. Mrs. Fisher was quoted in the August 17 issue of the Casper Star Tribune as saying "She (Dell) loved to make people happy and I think people are happy and I think people are happy today." 


The Lusk Herald,  May 2, 2012


A longtime Lusk landmark is little more than a memory now.

Lusk Volunteer Fire Department Chief John Eddy conducted a controlled burn that destroyed the famous Yellow Hotel, per the landowner's request. Eddy said the project had been on the to-do list since the winter, but uncooperative weather postponed the burn until last Friday morning.

The burn on the Yellow Hotel started about 8:30 a.m. Friday morning, and was almost completely burned down in an hour, Eddy said public notices regarding the controlled burn were previously published in The Lusk Herald.

Local historic figure Dell Burke owned the Yellow Hotel. Burke, whose birth name was Mary Ada Fisher, ran a burlesque {brothel} from the hotel. She was a significant contributor to the financial welfare of Lusk during the early 1900's. For example, Burke was said to have paid for a new generator to keep water and electricity running in Lusk, saving her business from being closed at the same time.

Burke retired in 1978 after six decades running one of the most successful burlesques {brothels} in the nation. She passed away Nov. 4, 1980, according to her obituary from the Nov. 13, 1980 edition of The Lusk Herald. She was 93.

According to the obituary, Burke once said "I wouldn't trade my life for anything. I've made a lot of money. Traveled the world. For me, it's been a good life."

More than 25 years following her death, Burke's first biography was published. "Frontier Madam: The Life of Dell Burke, Lady of Lusk," by June Willson Read, is available online and in bookstores.

George Flint, co-owner of the Yellow Hotel said "I have a certain degree of sadness over that historical building being ablaze. Additionally, if you read last week's Niobrara Daze and Nights, you will see that we still have plans for the property. Although I'm saddened by the demise of that historical building that has been here since the 1920's, I have not given up my dreams and hopes for something to replace it and will be a quality bed and breakfast."

Flint went on to say, "I spoke at length with the Mayor and she said that it was no cost to the town to demolish it. John Wasserburger, who is also a co-owner of the property was on board with that decision as well."

The decision came from the high costs of renovations of the existing structure  and this will now give Wasserburger and Flint the opportunity to start from the ground up.

"Nothing is forever, not even the Yellow Hotel, and memories will live on in the hearts of those that were a part of it," Flint lamented.

Several Herald readers in years past have shared memories and opinions of the Yellow Hotel. Although the signature, bright yellow building is no more, Dell Burke's contributions, legacy and the stories and photos of the Yellow Hotel live on forever as pieces of of Lusk's history.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Burke, Dell (07/05/1888 - 11/04/1980) View Record
Historical Dell Burke View Record