In the 19th century, this was Morton Street, variously considered the vilest, or the second vilest street in San Francisco. (Chinatown’s Waverly place provided the principal competition). Topless harlots leaned from their casement windows, luring business from the men who passed by. On a slow night, a woman’s pimp sold fondles for the standard price: 1 breast for ten cents, 2 for fifteen.
After the 1906 fire, Morton Street’s former tenants moved their business elsewhere, and the increasingly upscale merchants in the Union Square neighborhood renamed this Union Square Avenue. In the early 1920s, a local diamond merchant won city approval to rename the street again, this time for the jewelry district Maiden Lanes of London and Paris. And thus, with no apparent nod to irony, Morton Street completed its transformation.
Juicy stories set in or near Maiden Lane abound. For more, you might want to join me or one of the other San Francisco City Guides on our Monday morning “Bawdy and Naughty” walking tours.