Famous Flora’s, one of Auckland’s most colourful and dynamic brothels, had occupied a building on Pitt Street for over 30 years when it closed in 2008. Established by Ron King, it was later taken over by his daughter, Lyn Kingsnorth, and her brother Roy. Kingsnorth remembers dropping in to visit her father at his place of work when she was a child. The business was named after the well-known madam Flora MacKenzie, who established her sex business in Auckland in the 1940s.
Flora MacKenzie is one of the most colourful characters in New Zealand history: A hard drinking, hard talking brothel owner from the 1960s and 70s who won the affection of sex workers, police and punters alike.
Ms McKenzie was the country’s most infamous madam, earning an entry in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. She trained as a nurse and became an accomplished dress designer for Auckland’s upper crust before entering the world of prostitution in the 1940s. Her father purchased a block of flats at Ring Tce in St Marys Bay.
Her home was legendary and rumoured to have a rotating bed upstairs with panoramic harbour views. She operated the illegal brothel up until her death in 1982. The alcoholic was rumoured to have left her premises to the man who delivered her weekly crate of whisky, and her money went to the deaf.
Between 1962 and 1976, Ms McKenzie appeared in court six times on brothel-keeping charges and was twice jailed for six months, according to her entry by criminologist Dr Jan Jordan.
Stories had circulated for years about the alleged paranormal activity within the low-lit walls. Wine glasses would fly from the bar, chairs would tip over and apparitions were seen in the early hours by sex workers and staff.
It was in popular agreement that the building was haunted by a client who had died while enjoying the services on offer, whilst others believed the spirit of Flora lived on, keeping a watchful eye over her girls.