The Island of Joy – a brothel – that used to exist in Soldier Bay, Fort Bragg, CA.

This e-mail came out of the blue from Will Hackett:

” ……. I’m a Fort Bragg native son,whose teenage chores included hauling trash to “the dump,” plus area exploration, rock fishing and abalone harvesting. So I’m familiar with coves ’twixt Noyo and Pudding Creek.

Within text of your following linked page, you questioned, “…I wondered if one could see the rock where the Island of Joy exists. Here’s the pic I took. It is in the right location – at the bottom of Elm Street but……. I am not sure.”

You may have since discovered that the once notorious island is actually much closer, about a hundred yards north of the former dynamite shack. During a minus tide it is easily accessible from a well-worn path down to the location now called “Treasure Cove,” accessed from the loop off The Coastal Trail nearest the dynamite shack  With a strong arm, the island is a stone-throw from the northernmost bench and mentioned Treasure Cove trailhead on the loop.”

Well Will until your e-mail arrived my ignorance was bliss!! Will goes on:

“The attached pic include the island and southern bluff area, where two bridge anchorages to the island were established — both very near where the mentioned bench is today.”

Treasure Cove off of Fort Bragg CA

If my luck wasn’t in getting the above e-mail just you wait till you read the follow-up:

“[Will] recalling more regarding the offshore brothel, “Island of Joy” doesn’t ring my bell. I’m recalling something more like house of joy on Paradise Island. Also recalling the island may have been initially claimed by an early Fort Bragg businessman and in-town brothels operator, first name Augustus. Then called Augustus’ Island before its Paradise Island naming.

The following clipped portion of a 2015 Advocate-News article regarding Golden West Saloon, reportedly once owned by Augustus West, with upstairs brothel, seems to confirm some of my recall. Yet its details don’t seem entirely correct, either.

“The Golden West weathered civilization’s advance, which included the dynamiting of Paradise Island, a ‘house of joy’ accessible only by footbridge over the waves to a large rock offshore at the base of Laurel Street. Paradise Island, also owned by Augustus West, was not favored by some of Fort Bragg’s more progressively-minded citizens. After demanding action from local authorities without success, they took up a subscription for explosives and, in their own view, improved Fort Bragg’s moral character all at once. No injuries were reported.”

James Marino, a friend, archeologist and author of Glass Beach: A Field Survey / Fort Bragg, California, guided me to bridge footings at the base of the island, and explored up top with metal detector, so am absolutely certain of its location. Yet I cannot find or recall other related information sources, maybe printed material shelved at Guest House or Kelley House museums. Perhaps you have access to more accurate information from coastal historical society folks.

You’re surely aware of the history-related placard at the dynamite snack, and several at other trail locations. Am guessing it’ll be a long while before we’ll see such signage highlighting history of the island, if ever. ”

Here’s the photo/map supplies by James Marino:

Map showing location of the Island of Joy

Thanks to Will I located the footings of the suspension bridge and just like he wondered if we would ever see a plaque denoting its existence.

Thank you very much Will.