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The Tenderloin

St. Clair and Lafayette
The Tenderloin - Unholy Toledo Tour
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The Tenderloin District covered a number of city blocks in the vicinity of Lafayette and Washington Streets and Swan Creek – near the area now occupied by Fifth-Third Field, home of the Toledo Mud Hens and the Warehouse District.  So just how big was Toledo's most popular red light district? There were an estimated 35 houses of ill-repute, not to mention many more saloons, pool halls, gambling joints, wine rooms and seedy rooming houses in this area. 

 

Toledo's Tenderloin was cleaned up in 1918 by the Federal government to protect draft-age young men from social diseases before they were sent off to fight in WWI. When the government gave the public advance notice that they were shutting the Tenderloin down at the end of April, it was shear chaos as people rushed in for their last helping of vice. The area was host to a wide mix of low-end to high-end establishments.  The Blade reported that the proprietor of one “resort” did not want to abandon her house because it was “…said to have between $10,000 and $15,000 worth of mahogany and Circassian walnut furniture, Brussels carpets, costly draperies, masterpieces in oil paintings and classic statuary.”

 

In all, about 1,365 women were expelled from the Tenderloin District as a result of the May 1, 1918 shutdown.  So where do you think these women went?  Believe it or not, quite a few of them shuffled off to Buffalo since a lot of their clients were either railroad men or great lakes sailors and moving to Buffalo allowed them to keep their current customers. 

It's not hard to imagine why it took the Federal government to shut down Toledo's Tenderloin.  There were just too many palms getting greased for the local leaders to do it.   The earlier clean-up campaigns by Toledo officials throughout the post-Civil War and Victorian eras had been, at best, only marginally successful.

 

According to one story, after Samuel 'Golden Rule' Jones was elected mayor of Toledo, members of the clergy met with him and demanded that he close down the Tenderloin.  Jones told them to go down to the Tenderloin, pick out the most outrageous prostitute they could find, bring her to his home and he and his wife would take her in and rehabilitate her and make her a contributing member of society.  "The only thing I ask", he told the clergy, "is for each of you to bring one to your home and you do the same."  Needless to say, the meeting ended shortly after Jones's challenge and no one pressed him again about closing down the Tenderloin. 

 

Let's head east and turn left on Summit.  We're heading for Cullen Park in Point Place.