Storyville Debate, 1897
The Storyville debate continued past the District’s creation. .
In their edition of 9-October-1897, The Mascot re-printed a letter from “CITIZEN,” originally published in The New Orleans Item. The letter decries the establishment of the Storyville District, not so much because of the morality of brothels, but because of the behind-the-scene shenanigans taking place between property owners and the New Orleans City Council. The City Council created the District via an ordinance passed on 6-July-1897. They designated the area between Basin, Customhouse, N. Villere, and St. Louis Streets as a red-light district, where prostitution was legal.
Opposition to Storyville
Those who objected to the District did so on more than moral grounds. The neighborhood broke down into the up-scale “sporting palaces” along Basin Street, to the “cribs,” small houses going back into the District, towards N. Villere Street. The price of the evening’s activities reflected the location. So, whether the customer was punter with some money, or a working man looking for some action on a budget, the houses of Storyville met the needs. While those who objected to prostitution in any form howled, the notion of creating a red-light district appealed to many. In particular, property owners in the Vieux Carre and in Faubourg Treme on the east side of the Carondelet Canal liked the idea.
The letter writer, “CITIZEN,” decries the shifts in property values created by the ordinance:
The ordinance has not only done an unjustified injury to the property holders owning real estate, to the value of more than half a million dollars, in the former district occupied by the lewd and abandoned, but has really been a barefaced scheme to speculate to the detriment of a large portion of our population, for the benefit of a few, who are on the ground floor of city affairs, and has afforded several human vampires an opportunity for extorting for old dilapidated shanties fabulous rentals out of all proportion to the value of their properties.
Essentially, CITIZEN argues that houses in a red-light district lose value. At the same time others jacked up the rental prices. The description of “old dilapidated shanties” fits with many of the descriptions of “cribs” in the District.
The flowery prose of the letter writer, combined with the parallels of the issues surrounding short-term rentals of modern times make this a fascinating read.