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NY Times Dens of Iniquity map

The New York Times got their hands on a book called the Gentleman’s Directory from the year 1879 (approximately) and mapped out a whopping 153 houses of prostitution from the time.

Turns out there were two main hubs of brothels in the city, and the second largest cluster (nicknamed “Satan’s Circus”) was just north west of Madison Square Park around 27th Street and 6th Avenue, with 49 houses of prostitution in this area and 22 on West 27th Street alone. The largest cluster of brothels was in what is now Soho.

So has any of the trade remained in the 27th Street area in the present day? Well not exactly (to our knowledge), but we do have the Museum of Sex on 27th Street (@5th), swingers club Le Trapeze on 27th street (near Madison), and the Senton Hotel on 27th Street with TripAdvisor reviews referencing ‘clown porn’, (which oddly is in line with the old Satan’s Circus theme), so maybe West 27th street hasn’t lost its history completely…

Click the Map thumbnail to the right to see the full map and read the fascinating article by Alison Leigh Cowan for the City Room about the old Gentleman’s Directory that they found. According to the Times, “The mission, its author (or authors) wrote with a wink, was to tell people where not to go.”


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