San Francisco's Maiden Lane | Mechanics' Institute

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San Francisco's Maiden Lane
a lecture with historian Peter Field

When the subject of San Francisco’s Maiden Lane comes up, most people think of either its current iteration as a chi chi shopping thoroughfare, or of Herbert Asbury’s suspiciously entertaining version of its history as one of the city’s most notorious brothel alleys (in his book The Barbary Coast, pages 258-260 in the original 1935 hardback edition).

But primary sources paint a much more complex picture of the alley’s life from its beginnings as a two-block residential street cut into the sand dunes in the early 1850s with rows of charming Carpenter Gothic frame houses and wooden sidewalks to its gradual deterioration into a brothel alley to its resurrection as a printing industry center to its second resurrection as an alley of back doors to shops and buildings to becoming Jane Jacob’s poster child for urban renewal to its current role as a model of real estate greed and empty storefronts and all the bad things those entail. Join us for this exciting lecture with historian Peter Field.


Members & Public Free
4th Floor Meeting Room
Taryn Edwards - 415-393-0103

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