Sex in our City: A Seattle Timeline

A look at our sometimes scandalous history

By Seattle Mag December 31, 1969

Category: Articles


A look at our sometimes scandalous history

1853: After taking over as manager of Felker House—Seattle’s first hotel, at Main Street and First Avenue—Mary Ann Conklin (aka Mother Damnable) diversifies the business, adding a brothel.

1861: John Pinnell builds Seattle’s first official brothel (on Yesler Way); first prostitutes were Native American women.

1864: “Mercer’s Girls” arrive in Seattle, imported from New York by University of Washington president Asa Mercer to provide Seattle with teachers of good moral standing. The women’s arrival increased the number of Seattle’s marriageable women and inspired the television series Here Come the Brides (1968–1970).

1888: Madame Lou Graham steps off the steamer Pacific Pride and founds a sumptuous, lucrative and expensive house of prostitution.

1880s–1890s: Prime time for the Minnehaha Saloon, an African American saloon and brothel, owned by Mary Thompson.

1897­–1898: Klondike Gold Rush, which helped Seattle’s brothels flourish.

1899: Florence Crittenton Home for unwed mothers opens six miles south of Seattle in Dunlap.

1900–1910: Seattle wrestles with Open Town controversy—proponents want to allow brothels, gambling parlors and saloons if contained to Skid Road (south of Yesler Way); opponents want to outlaw these on moral grounds.

1911: Seattle Mayor Hiram Gill is recalled from office for supporting an Open Town policy, including granting a 15-year lease to a 500-room brothel on Beacon Hill

1930: “The Casino” opens at Washington Street and Second Avenue, one of the few places in Seattle where same-sex dancing is tolerated.

1934: The Double Header opens in Pioneer Square, believed to be one of the nation’s oldest gay bars (still operating but no longer considered a gay bar).

1967: The Dorian Society is founded as Seattle’s first gay rights organization, and Seattle magazine (unrelated to this one) publishes a cover story on “The Homosexual in Seattle.”

1969: Lesbian bar the Silver Slipper opens in Pioneer Square.

1985: The Lusty Lady moves to its current location on First Avenue (an area once known as “Flesh Avenue”) from a spot closer to the Pike Place Market, where it was called the Amusement Center.

1986: John Gottman joins UW faculty; goes on to establish the Love Lab.

1986: The Erotic Bakery opens in Wallingford.

1991: The Stranger editor and sexpert Dan Savage publishes his first “Savage Love” column.

1992: Bicycling streakers invade the Fremont Solstice Parade, starting a tradition.

1993: Toys in Babeland (today called Babeland) opens on Capitol Hill.

1996: Seth Warshavsky, Internet pornography pioneer, converts a Seattle warehouse into the Internet Entertainment Group studios, launches and becomes hugely successful. (In 2001, pursued by bill collectors, attorneys and former employers, Warshavsky flees to Bangkok.)

1997: Mary Kay Letourneau is arrested for second-degree rape of her 12-year-old student Vili Fualaau. Pleads guilty and is sentenced to seven and a half years, only serves six months (rel


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