Today, 27th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues is kind of a mishmash of wholesale business and small shops anchored on the western end by the Fashion Institute of Technology.
It was a different world in the 1870s, when the block ground zero for prostitution, with 22 houses of ill repute lining both sides of the street.
That’s in addition to dozens of other brothels on nearby blocks. This was the city’s post–Civil War neighborhood of vice, called the Tenderloin, a sinful stretch of 23rd to 42nd Streets between Sixth and Eighth Avenues.
The brothels of 27th Street were so notorious, they scored a mention in The Gentleman’s Companion, a guide to prostitution published in the 1870s, reports Andrew Roth in his book Infamous Manhattan.
Among the proprietors listed in the guide are “Mrs. Disbrow, 101; Mrs. Emma Brown, 103; Miss Maggie Pierce, 104; Joe Fisher, 105; Miss Dow, 106; Mrs. Standly, 107,” writes Roth.
Number 107, in the photo, is noteworthy because it’s the only original building left.
“Evidently the author of The Gentleman’s Companion didn’t think too much of the place, since his only comment is ‘the Ladies boarding-house at 107 West 27th St. is kept by Mrs. Standly and is very quiet.’”
“Not much of an endorsement, but better than the review received by her next-door neighbor . . . of which he warns that ‘the landlady and her servants are as sour as her wine,’” adds Roth.