Theses Master's

A Preservationist's Guide to the Harems, Seraglios, and Houses of Love of Manhattan: The 19th Century New York City Brothel in Two Neighborhoods

Serratore, Angela K.

In the period roughly bounded by 1850 and 1900, SoHo (also referred to as the Broadway entertainment district) and the Tenderloin were neighborhoods containing nearly all of New York City's brothels. For the first time in city history, brothels appeared in new and developing neighborhoods along with theatres, shops, and legitimate boarding houses. Today, the history of New York's red-light districts are largely uninterpreted. While the neighborhoods once known for their more licentious qualities have changed, buildings identified as brothels still stand. This thesis will foreground the history of sexual commerce in the context of the built environment, exploring the relationship between prostitution and women's, urban, and economic history. Using the historical record and interpretive theory and literature, I will develop an interpretation strategy, addressing questions of both institutional recognition (and examining what, if any, recognition of brothels as important city sites currently exists) and less formal interpretation methods (tours, interactive material, etc.) that allows this crucial layer of city history to be uncovered.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Dennis, Ward S.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
June 11, 2013