The Gaslamp Quarter (or, the Red-Lamp Quarter)

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Within the borders of the Gaslamp Quarter, lies the location of San Diego’s first Chinatown. When the Chinese Exclusion act was passed in 1882, none of the Chinese people there could become citizens. Nothing to encourage them to explore local culture anymore, they kept to themselves. With the addition of laws restricting their right to fish, most stayed ashore and many fell prey to The Stingaree.

This buggy was found to have illegal Chinese immigrants smuggled through Mexico
This buggy was found to have illegal Chinese immigrants smuggled through Mexico

At the time, that was the name of the Gaslamp Quarter and it was a red-light district. Gambling, opium dens, prostitution, even commercial human smuggling (for Chinese immigrants) were common things here. From an 1887 report in the San Diego Union:

Strolling down Fifth in the evening, the ear is rasped by notes from asthmatic pianos, discordant fiddles and drunken voices boisterously singing ribald songs. Noses are offended by garlic, swill and fried meat coming from some chophouse. The eye is pained to see men lying drunk on every corner . . . . it is fully as bad as the Barbary Coast in San Francisco.

Madam Mamie Goldstein ran "the Turf Club", a brothel, in this building.
Madam Mamie Goldstein ran “the Turf Club”, a brothel, in this building.

And it was a rough neighborhood that attracted those seeking illegitimate fortune and fun. One enterprising business man was none other than Wyatt Earp. He owned and operated four saloons and gambling halls; earning up to $1000 every night (which today would be over $26k)!

Wyatt Earp
Wyatt Earp

A couple attempts to remove the criminal element failed totally. From 1912 to 1916, the tactic was to simply demolish 120 buildings. But the only result was a sudden and quite large homeless population. Most attempts to renovate the area were in speeches only, by politicians trying to be elected. It was only in the late 1980s that the area was finally redeveloped into the Gaslamp Quarter seen today.

Music: Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 33 – I. Allegro non troppo by Camille Saint-Saëns

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