Prostitution is as American as apple pie. It didn't matter if you were rich or poor, a banker or a street-sweeper, at places like the Bird Cage, you could always find some comfort. Take a walk through history's red-light district.
Yeah sure prostitution was illegal under vagrancy laws, but it didn't stop these brothels from becoming the most notorious "houses of ill repute" that a lonely traveler could wish for. The doors were always open, so long as you had the cash.
Visit these former brothels for a walk down history's red light district:
Today it's one of the coolest dive bars in Memphis, but back in its heyday, Ernestine and Hazel's was one of the most popular whorehouses in the South. Downstairs you could enjoy music, booze, and maybe a fight, but upstairs the ladies of the night were working their trade. Some say their ghosts are still hanging out today. That strange knocking? Probably the headboard.
in 1897 the Red Onion was the most happenin' brothels in the gold mining town of Skagway, and the ladies did their part to make the cold Alaska nights a littler warmer. With a total of 10 cribs (rooms), a traveler would approach the bar to pick his poison. Each woman was represented by a doll, which would be taken off the bar while she was, ahem, indisposed.
Today, the Red Onion Saloon stands as a museum.. and one of the best bars in Skagway, Alaska!
Dumas Brothel was America's longest running parlor, partly because of its inventive high-class, low-class system, which made it possible for the rich and poor to spend an evening with Butte's ladies of the night. The brothel ran for an astonishing 92 years, from 1890 to 1982 and was nicknamed one of the classiest cathouses around.
If you aren't afraid of ghosts, you can visit the Dumas Brothel yourself on one of their famous museum tours!
One of the meanest saloons in Tombstone, the Bird Cage Theater had a total of 14 cribs or "cages", which ladies would curtain off while they were entertaining. In 1882 The New York Times called the Bird Cage the "…wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin and Barbary Coast." It ran 365 days a year, twenty-four hours a day for eight years and went down in history as one of the most dangerous American brothels in history.
The list wouldn't be complete without these gone-but-not-forgotten brothels that went down in history as Americas favorite cat houses. Honorable mentions include:
The Chicken Ranch (Texas)
The "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" ran from 1905 to 1973 and was immortalized in a 1978 hit Broadway musical. Run by the infamous "Mrs. Swine", the original incarnation operated successfully until it was forced to close during the Civil War, when "Madam Swine" deserted as a Yankee American loyalist.
Mahogany Hall (New Orleans)
If you were looking for love in New Orleans, there was no better place than to head to Basin Street in the red-light Storyville district. And if you were looking to have a good time, you'd know to head towards Mahogany Hall, were 2 dollars would pay your way at Mrs. Lulu White's house. Unfortunately the building was demolished, but that didn't erase Lulu White from New Orleans' sinful history.