This Kentucky Town Has A Deep Dark ‘Red’ Past No One Talks About
Take about your juicy gossip on a Thursday morning! Did you know that Owensboro was once home to a Red Light District? It's true and this was no gossiping matter. It was the real deal.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A RED LIGHT DISTRICT?
The only reason I even halfway what a Red Light District was is because of TLC in the early nineties educating me with their song "Red Light Special" and that is when my momma had to explain a lot of things she didn't want to at the given time. According to Wikipedia here's what it is:
"A red-light district or pleasure district is a part of an urban area where a concentration of prostitution and sex-oriented businesses, such as sex shops, strip clubs, and adult theaters, are found. In most cases, red-light districts are particularly associated with female street prostitution."
WHERE WAS THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT IN OWENSBORO
According to local historian, Joe Ford, the RLD was located on what used to be Mulberry Street in what is now downtown Owensboro near where the Executive Inn used to be. It ran south from the river several blocks. In Joe's book Haunts To Hookers you can find the story of the Red Light District in its entirety.
He goes on to talk about how it was formed and how the City Council was petitioned in the early 1900s to designate a new street name in parts of the area so citizens did not have to associate with the likes of these folks. There were multiple houses up and down Mulberry and men would come to select their favorite girl and take her to the riverfront.
There is a story of one woman from the district who supposedly fell in love with a gentleman caller who had promised her a better life only to take back his promise. It is said she went to the funeral home the man worked and killed him but the story has never been confirmed.
THE END OF OWENSBORO'S RED-LIGHT DISTRICT
According to Haunts To Hookers, the last Mulberry Street house was torn down in 1939. It's estimated that over 1,000 women traveled through the houses of the RLD during that time.
I believe Joe Ford gave way to compassion in the kindest form when he said,
"It's easy to condemn these girls and say that there must have always been some kind of work they could do. It's easy to say this as you sit in the comforts of your home. Remember these women of another generation had the same longings and weaknesses as you. They lived in a time of unbending moral codes and often faced a hostile world unprepared in any manner to support themselves."
Many of them did the best that they could do without the support or love of their families. He goes on to remind us of Luke 7 in the Bible when the prostitute washes Jesus' feet. He extended grace and forgiveness during that time. We truly have no idea what the women of those times even endured. We can only sit and paint our own picture.
Let us be thankful for what was and was has come to be of our beautiful city and its history and for incredible citizens such as Joe Ford, who have preserved the history of these times so we can look back on them and educate ourselves.
TOUR THE FORMER RED-LIGHT DISTRICT
David Wolfe is another local storyteller who loves sharing Owensboro's "haunted" history. David hosts the Haunts of Owensboro ghost walks downtown and covers the city's notorious Red Light District. Here's an overview of the experience he offers.
For more information about David's tours, CLICK HERE!
WHERE TO FIND A COPY OF HAUNTS TO HOOKERS
A great big thank you to Nancy Middleton here in Owensboro for loaning me her copy of Haunts To Hookers. If you'd like to check out a copy, you can find Joe Ford's history of the Red Light District at these libraries.