Carmen's former brothel up for sale

16:00, Oct 20 2013
Carmen Rupe teacher
THEN AND NOW: A glimpse of what the house looked like in its prime, and how it looks now.

A colourful slice of Wellington history is for sale, with famous madam and transsexual activist Carmen Rupe's former brothel in need of a new owner.

The more than a century-old home at 67 Moxham Ave, Hataitai, had its first open home yesterday.

Ms Rupe moved in shortly after arriving in Wellington in 1968 and described it in her autobiography as the "ideal place for the discreet entertainment of clients".

Carmen Rupe teacher
MADAM: Famous transsexual activist, brothel-keeper and businesswoman Carmen Rupe, and the kitchen of 67 Moxham Ave.

She said it cost about $200 a week to keep the house and business brought in a healthy $500.

Several of the rooms were themed "to cater for client's fantasies", including an Egyptian room, an African jungle room, a bondage room, and an Asian room with lanterns and bamboo curtains.

However, its days as a brothel came to an end in the early 1970s when a so-called "evil landlord" made Carmen and her "parlour maids" move out, according to the former madam's autobiography.

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Ms Rupe was a well-known Wellington personality, champion of gay rights and one-time mayoral candidate. She died in December 2011 of kidney failure, aged 75.

Neighbour Yvonne Lawrie was born in the house when it belonged to her grandfather Ted Taylor, before moving next door when she was still young. She recalled Carmen as a colourful hostess.

"Carmen would stand [in the window] with no wig on and wave to me in her nightgown."

Lunch times were particularly interesting, she said.

"The girls, if they were girls, turned up and the businessmen would come 20 minutes later. My ancestors were quite straight-laced people but we never had a problem with it."

There were rumours that MPs and prominent businessmen frequented Ms Rupe's establishment but Mrs Lawrie said she never recognised anyone.

Before Ms Rupe moved in, the house was scarcely less interesting, she said. After Mrs Lawrie's father sold up, two religious cults moved in in quick succession.

"They'd sit out in the front garden in their orange robes with their incense and other smells. I've never smoked a naughty cigarette in my life but I know the smell."

Harcourts agent Bobbie Meyer said the house was now "full of artistic hippies and musicians".

Any signs of its brothel past were long gone and nobody knew which was the bondage room.

The house and land have a rateable value of $810,000 on a flat 1000sqm section. She said it had lots of potential for the right investor, either to do it up or keep it as is.

The auction is set for November 1.

The Dominion Post