4: Brothels
In 1870, there were 14 brothels on Greene Street.
The brothels moved to Greene after hotels and large theaters started to cluster nearby, including the Olympic Theatre at Broadway and Houston. The Greene Street block, just off Broadway, was conveniently full of houses with many bedrooms — and Greene Street soon had the highest concentration of sex-work activity in New York City.
Olympic Theatre at 624 Broadway, 1875. Ephemeral New York
A show at the Niblo's Garden, at Broadway and Prince Street, had room to seat 3,200. One musical at Niblo's was said to have 100 "semi-nude" women. The 1866 extravaganza The Black Crook at Niblo's was five and a half hours long, and is sometimes considered the first American musical. Its most famous number was "Naughty Naughty Men."

The shows were often meant to be titillating, and patrons regularly went to the brothels after performances.
"Interior of Niblo's Opera House, New York City." New York Public Library Digital Collections
Dancing "Annabelle" was one of the first dancers ever recorded on film, shot and produced in 1894 by Thomas Edison's Manufacturing Company in New York. She was also a successful Broadway dancer, where her moves revealed flashes of undergarments.
"Annabelle Dances and Dances," found on YouTube. A version also at New York Public Library Digital Collections, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.
The brothels of Greene Street, and the nearby theatres and hotels. Every red point is a brothel on the block either in 1870, 1880, or both.
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Part of wards 5, 6, 8 & 14, New York City. (G.W. Bromley & Co., civil engineers. Published by Geo. W. Bromley & E. Robinson, 1879). Data from Gilfoyle, Timothy. City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790- 1920 WW Norton & Company: New York, 1994.
Prostitution was common and in high demand in New York, America's largest port: one estimate suggests there were 10,000 sex workers in 1858. There were advertisements for the women and guidebooks to the brothels.
Drawing, entitled "The Genius of Advertising," in National Police Gazette, 1880. New York Times.
The Gentleman's Companion: a pocket guidebook to nightlife in New York in 1870. Greene Street had so many brothels that the area was described as a "sink of iniquity."
Found in New York Times.
The clues to the prostitution era of the neighborhood live in the census. A brothel's census record from this period may show one older woman, perhaps a couple of men of various service professions -- and several women in their 20's with different last names residing at the same house, listed as boarders (“bdr”) with occupation listed as “none.”
1880 Federal Census records
Occupation: "none" for the young women
listed as employee, boarder ("bdr"), or servant
Non-Residential Occupation on the Block by %, 1834 -1881
Greene Street became the center of a thriving sex trade.
"Health Officers Clearing Out a Dive," in Under-ground life in New York, C. S. Reinhart. Harper's Weekly, 1873 July 12, p. 604. Found in Library of Congress
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