Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Real life prostitutes

Rob Tocalino has posted this review of Woman of Ill Fame over at his very fun Egg Blog--and accompanying his text is a great oldtime photograph of some ladies of the evening.

Recently I've been trying to track down some 1800s brothels here in Oakland, where we once had a legalized prostitution zone (roughly 1870 to 1913). Click the links to read these Montclarion columns in order:

1. A brothel site in the midst of the redwood forest whose timbers built San Francisco. Pictured here is Dee Rosario of the East Bay Regional Park District, lifting fallen limbs to reveal the moss-covered staircase of Ruby's brothel. Nothing other than a second staircase remains of the structure.

2. A reputed house of prostitution in the middle of Oakland's Victorian Row. The photo at left shows the lavish double staircase that quite possibly allowed men to engage the services of higher-class prostitutes than the women who serviced the rough lumbermen in the redwoods. This is now an attorneys' office.

3. One possible brothel near the waterfront and nine confirmed in West Oakland. The photo of the rudimentary map seen here is West Oakland's Pacific Street as logged by the Sanborn Fire Insurance Company. See the lettering that reads "Female Boarding" and "Fem. Board'g?" If you click the link above, you'll learn that this was a euphemism for a brothel, which the fire insurance company took into account since such places were a low fire risk.

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