ABC13 revisits the Chicken Ranch decades later

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Steve Campion and Pooja Lodhia got exclusive access to the property to show us what it looks like today and discuss future plans for the site.

LA GRANGE, Texas (KTRK) -- Known to Hollywood as the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, the La Grange Chicken Ranch made headlines after Channel 13's Marvin Zindler got it shut down after airing a series of investigative reports. It was one of the last standing brothels in the state, and decades later, many have wondered what has happened to it.

Eyewitness News reporters Steve Campion and Pooja Lodhia got exclusive access to the property in 2016 to show us what it looked like 43 years after it was shut down and discuss future plans for the site.

The year was 1973 when Action 13 received an anonymous complaint about two alleged houses of prostitution.

ABC 13 reporter Larry Conners approached Edna Milton, the madam of the ranch, on camera about the type of business she was conducting on the property.

Conners asked, "You're not operating a house of prostitution?"

Milton responded, "Whether I am or not, it's none of your business."

Marvin discovered financial kickbacks that allowed the ranch to remain open for as long as it did.

Conners continued, "Who else gets money, any of that? Any law officials? Government officials?"

Milton replied, "Certainly, the federal government, certainly they get their pint of blood for every quart you give, they get theirs."

But Marvin didn't give up, and put continued pressure on government officials to shut it down.

One phone call from the governor to the sheriff closed the bawdy houses that had been operating illegally for 129 years.

A few years after its closure, part of the building was moved to Dallas to become a restaurant, which only lasted three months.

But the rest of the ranch has been left open to the elements, weathering down to tattered remains. We wanted to see what the property looks like today and hear a little more about what really went on at the ranch during its prime.

Former reporter Jayme Blaschke worked for years on his first book about the Chicken Ranch: "The Definitive Account of The Best Little Whore House."

Blaschke said, "So I started researching in and tracked down Ms. Edna, who was still alive, and she agreed to interview, and that's what started it. The Chicken Ranch was kind of an oasis. Ms. Edna didn't allow pimps and other types who would exploit the other women.

"This right here was the front. When you see pictures of the chicken ranch, the big white front with the rotunda on the side, that was the parlor. Customers would come up here, this is where the front steps were, and they would knock on their door. There was no external handle.

"When I first came out here in 2009, it was in terrible shape, but it has collapsed progressively over the years. We want to get a historical marker, because this is a very, I don't want to say it's an important, but it's an integral piece of Texas history.

"The Chicken Ranch was here from 1915 on. And depending on which timeline or which history you take as valid, it gets kind of iffy, but the history of prostitution in the La Grange area can stretch all the way back to 1844."

MORE: The legendary Marvin Zindler

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