Tag Archive: J. Howard Williams

It was a brothel? How do you know?

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My parents bought Hilltop House in 1982 to operate as a religious
retreat facility. As we moved in, there were whispers in the community,
"Did you realize…?" "Can you believe it…?"

The brothel history was one of California Hot Springs' greatest
urban legends. Like all urban legends, it was difficult to separate
fact from fiction. It seems rash to gossip about the family of the
original owner — J. Howard Williams. His son had become a state
Senator representing the Porterville area and his daughter…? A madam?

The whispers continued.

An amazing thing happened sometime around the summer of 1984. A
woman showed up at the door and reported that her father was in the car
and really wanted to see the house. She had driven him from his nursing
facility in Porterville and had hoped we would allow them in.

The man was the nephew of J. Howard Williams, the original owner, and had helped on the construction site in 1908-1910
as a 10+-year-old boy. He told us stories about the beams in the great
room ceiling and the original doors, all of which we could verify (and
deserve their own little discussions).

In passing, this man commented on the work of his cousin who operated Hilltop House as a house of ill repute in the 1920s.

He just sort of shook his head as if to add "all kinds of things have happened in this house."


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