Island used as brothel outside of Washington lists for $2.1 million
A mysterious island in the Chesapeake Bay once used as a brothel has hit the market for $2.1 million.
Known as Tippity Wichity Island – a 90-minute drive from Washington DC – the 5-acre enclave is known for its shady but colorful past.
Current owners Gail and John Harmon told Insider they believe the island served as a brothel after the Civil War and was operated by a soldier named Captain Henry Howgate.
Records show Howgate was one of the first residents of Tippity Wichity Island, according to Sotheby’s listing. The listing adds that Howgate bought it in 1879.
Howgate had a long rap sheet, which included convictions for fraud and embezzlement, according to an 1895 article by The News.
Meanwhile, the Harmons bought the timeshare island in the 1970s for $125,000, when they and another couple saw an ad in the classifieds section of a local newspaper, the Washingtonian. The Harmons were looking for a waterfront vacation home when they moved to Washington for a military engagement at the time, they said.
The ad caught their attention, which included a quote from William Shakespeare’s play, ‘Richard II’, which read: ‘That other Eden, half-paradise, That fortress built by nature for herself.’
“[We] were blown away by how wonderful it was,” Gail Harmon said of the first time they visited the island.
For 30 years, the two couples alternated weekends — until the other couple decided to sell their share to the Harmons nearly a decade ago, they told Insider.
Before its use as a resort, it had a completely different purpose.
Passing Tippity Wichity Island on a 2017 Potomac River cruise, Chesapeake Bay Magazine editor Jody Argo Schroath reported how locals thought the name suggested a brothel had been built on the island. island after the civil war.
“It’s a corruption of the name ‘Tippling and Witchery Island,’ named after a disreputable house that stood there after the Civil War,” Schroath wrote in the column.
Meanwhile, a friend told Gail that the island could also have served as an illegal distillery during the Prohibition Zone in the 1920s. The friend revealed that their father imported casks of whiskey to the island during this period.
“It was a perfect place to meet your buyers,” she said. “If the feds came up the river, you could go roll from behind.”
Five minutes by boat from the mainland and with an electrical system containing a backup generator, the island could also serve as a full-time residence.
The package includes a three-bedroom cottage with an open-plan living and dining area, as well as a wood-burning stove. Other features include a dock, beach, launch area for kayaks and canoes, and a heated outdoor pool.
“Washington, DC was still a small outpost in the 1800s,” David DeSantis, the broker on the listing, told Insider. “It was the desert. There was a lot of piracy on the water, it was kind of a lawless environment.
“By today’s standards of what people think of in the United States as beachfront summer homes, that’s still pretty modest,” DeSantis added. “But it has a lot of charm. The house is more like an “extended chalet”. It’s not like living in a mansion on an island. You could turn it into that if you wanted, but that’s not their vibe.
As the Harmons approach 80, they said age played a role in their decision to finally sell their beloved island.
“It’s bittersweet,” Gail said.