J - The Oldest Profession
Location: Federal Triangle (see
Metro: Federal Triangle Station (Orange-Blue lines)
informational links below)
"My name is Nellie Starr. My native place is Baltimore,
State of Maryland. I have been in Washington City, D.C. since a week
before Christmas. I am about nineteen or twenty years of age. I am not
married. I have known John Wilkes Booth about three years; he was in the
habit of visiting the house where I live kept by Miss Eliza Thomas, No. 62
Ohio Avenue in the City of Washington. The house is one of prostitution."
(part of Nellie Starr’s statement to the police, April 15,
From the 1860s through the 1880s, black
and white, native and foreign-born families tried to make a living in this
neighborhood. Family households and brothels, commercial businesses and
industries co-existed here in "Hooker’s District" alongside the canal (under
Constitution Ave), which had turned into little more than an open sewer. In
1862 the city supported 450 registered "bawdy houses," which were legal
until prostitution was outlawed in 1914.
changed from madam-owned houses to capitalist businesses with corporate
ownership in the 1890s, when the area turned into a red light district with
rows of brothels. Before 1890, archaeology reveals very little difference
between the daily lives of working class households and brothels, although
the families owned more toys and more tools. But later the prostitutes ate
better and dressed better than their working class contemporaries. Some of
their purchasing power, however, was spent on proprietary medicines such as Valentine’s Meat Juice, promoted as a cure for sexually transmitted
Archaeology in Downtown
a walking and metro guide to the past...
was produced cooperatively by the National
Park Service, National Center for Cultural Resources, Archeology and
Ethnography Program; the District of Columbia Office of Planning, Historic
Preservation Office; the Center for Heritage Resource Studies, University of
Maryland, College Park; and the Society for American Archaeology.