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The Demons of Maiden Lane
There is a small, two-block, gated lane off the east side of Union Square filled with high-end art galleries, boutiques and cafes. This chic passage blocked off from traffic is known as Maiden Lane and while you wouldn't know it today, during the 1800s Maiden Lane was San Francisco's seediest and most violent red light district. Dozens of dangerous "cribs" lined this narrow street, then known as Morton Street. Prices of the services in the dirty cribs ranged from 25 cents up to a dollar although the odds were good that customers would just as likely find their throats cut instead. During the 1800s Morton Street was the scene of some 100 murders.

Ironically, two of the famous brothel-owners on Morton Street were women. Ex-prostitutes, Iodoform Kate ran a dozen filthy brothels on Morton Street and Rotary Rosie also made a fortune here despite the cost of paying off the police to look the other way. After the 1906 earthquake the area become too expensive to be rebuilt as brothels and was turned into a shopping street and in 1914 San Francisco became the last major city to outlaw prostitution. Today, all that remains to hint at the street's shady past is this demon mask staring down on visitors shopping at Herm├ęs and Ferragamo.
[ MAP H-14 ]


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