List of San Francisco long-term brothels, 1937

Hank sez, "The San Francisco Examiner reported in March 1937 that private investigator Edwin Atherton, hired by the city to investigate police graft, delivered a list of 135 long-term brothels, called 'resorts,' to the Grand Jury investigation police corruption, finding bordellos in neighborhoods from South of Market to North Beach."

San Francisco Examiner lists 135 long-established house of prostitution (Thanks, Hank!)


  1. Reminds me of the modern practice of posting mugshots of arrested prostitutes on the web, including where they were arrested.

    1. Why, a smart operator would take that list and print a brochure to sell the tourists.

      Now, put it on a web site behind a pay wall.

      Oh. And “RESORTS?”

  2. I think the property values of every house on that list just went up.  Historical site!  Heritage building!  75 years ago, the people living here had more sex than you’re having now!

  3. For the enlightenment of those living in countries where the Protestant Church still dictates what two consenting adults may do behind closed doors: in many First World countries (e.g. Canada, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, etc), prostitution is legal.

    The “OMG, look at this” framing of this post implies that the puritanical anti-prostitution laws of the US are some kind of universal norm among developed nations.  Americans should understand that other advanced democracies have a very different take on the issue.

    1. Blah blah blah. Whoring might be legal, but they still can’t figure out how not to get stuck with the bill when their currency crashes. 

  4. This is brilliant, look at some of the street names: Fillmore, Bush? And I guess the address on Turk street involved the rear entrance… and hey, the resort on Golden Gate probably included water sports!

    1. I was visiting a town for which I didn’t have a good map. I was reading the local newspaper and found a terrific map… with all the places to buy crack pipes marked.

  5. I knew an artist who had an apartment in a former brothel in North Beach. It was turned into cold water flats. She said that near the entrance there was a niche with a window that was the Madam’s office. No one got any further without paying up.
    Sally Stanford was a well known madam. When she got out of the business she had a restaurant in Sausalito. She ran for mayor but had to use her real name which was Marsha Owen. Lost the first time but later won. Talk about business experience.

  6. 527 Broadway is today an apartment building and 554 Broadway is today a hotel, both of them on the upper floors above strip clubs.

  7. The real story is that San Francisco, troubled by the depression and still raw over the police shooting during the 1934 general strike, went after the rich, corrupt police department. The supervisors pledged $70,000 dollars and hired the private investigator Edwin Atherton and empaneled a grand jury with subpoena power. Dozens of cops lost their beat and some went underground, one killed himself and his family, and San Francisco’s greatest boss, bail bond king Pete McDonough, was brought down and legislated out of the business.

    I’m flogging the recent publication of my ebook, “Bordello Politique,” the story of Dolly Fine, San Francisco’s most notorious madam, who got dragged into the scandal.

  8. I cherry-picked about 10 addresses, and it seems from Google Street view that almost none of them are the same buildings from that time, sadly. But I bet there are some, particularly the ones in North Beach.

    1. I used Streetview to check the buildings on Broadway, and while 508 seems to be a parking lot, I think the rest are all still the original buildings. Not sure about a few. Some of the buildings don’t have readily visible address numbers, so it’s hard to tell exactly which ones would match which addresses. I spot-checked a few others… some buildings are still there, some aren’t.

  9. A similar establishment was around the corner from my previous employer. It called itself a ‘Spa’. The building had one tiny window, behind which was a neon sign: “Spa Open”. I don’t think I ever saw the sign turned off…

  10. Hookers in the bad part of town?  I’m shocked.  On street view most of these places are now either ethnic businesses, low rent hotels or been replaced by apartments and office buildings.  Then there’s these:

    527 Broadway: Garden of Eden (strip club)
    554 Broadway: Roaring 20s (strip club)754 Golden Gate: was next to John Swett Elementary School (gone)
    1054 Kearny: Heaven Mini Theatre (strip club, closed for prostitution)

    Several are bars but it’s unclear if they’re strip clubs as well.  Also, the Yelp pages for the strip clips are amusing, they’re popular with women.

  11. So I guess Depression-era people used a lot of air-quotes when speaking. “Resorts,” indeed.

    On the other hand, in the midst of the Great Depression, their version of a week on the Riviera probably was a BJ and a ham sandwich. So maybe “resort” was an appropriate term at the time.

  12. Life is good when you can walk out of 371 Columbus and go next door to Molinari’s for a Renzo and a jar of Bruno’s Just Nippy.

  13. I’d like to be able to cross-reference where all the bars were at the time.  Prohibition had ended by then, and with enough business for several brothels to exist on one block, I imagine the bars were doing pretty well too. Makes me wonder where there was room for any other business.

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