Vice Commission Map, 1913

The City of Portland Vice Commission created a map of known and suspected immoral dwellings and businesses in the downtown area in 1913. The map has apparently faded to nothing but markers on a white page but by turning, scaling and fitting the known elements (Irving Street, 23rd Avenue, etc.) I was able to overlay the vice map on top of a modern Google map of the city. The resultant composite gives a pretty accurate indication of where much of Portland’s immoral activity took place. Click here to see a raw version of the original map. As always, click on any image to see a larger, more detailed version.



(City of Portland Archives/Google Maps)

11 thoughts on “Vice Commission Map, 1913

  1. I’d like to see what kind of methodology was applied. “You all moral here? No? You getta red dot.”

    “Lou, dis place has a four foot crucifix in the foyer. Give dis one a green dot.”

    Given some of the earlier history of law enforcement in Portland, I also wonder if this was less a map of metropolitan turpitude and more a guide book.”

    Thanks for digging this up Dan.

  2. Great work Dan!
    One of the surprises for me was the cluster west of the present 405, north of Burnside (today’s “Alphabet District”). A couple decades prior that would have been uncomfortably close to some of Portland’s wealthiest- this hints that their exodus to the hills was well under way. I have read in old Oregonian articles that the center of Portland vice in the 1870s was 3rd and Tayor, the so called “Corridor of Death” and that it was pressured to move to the old North End. This map shows that there was still considerable activity around there- either it moved back in, or never really left in the first place. Thanks for adding meaning to that old map!

  3. See pp. 435-438 in Merchants, Money, & Power by MacColl & Stein. A number of notable Portland names are listed as building owners where the “vice” was occurring. The Vice Commission Report led to the infamous “Tin Plate Law”.

  4. According to the report, 98 locations were moral and 431-547 locations were immoral! Wonder why they even bothered, immorality had already won.

  5. Sweet. My office building (ca 1930’s) sits on the site of a former immoral hotel. NW corner of 3rd and Oak. Of note is that there seems to be few establishments in this area. Also of note is the number of old bank buildings that I’ve noticed presently in this same area.

  6. Dave B.

    Heh, I was actually wondering how it was determined which was which. The parts of the full report that I’ve read indicate one method was a male or female investigator would pose as a prospective tenant. They would then interview the landlords (or in many cases landladies) and fellow tenants, and in some cases, rent a room and observe the comings and goings.

    Interestingly enough, apparently messenger boys provided a lot of the initial information to help investigators determine which buildings should be part of the investigation.

  7. Just to show the Occupy people how not much has changed, the report says women workers were being victimized by low wages
    (about $7.00 a week, when to live decently they needed $10.00 a week.) So to have fancy things, they had to become whores? Think the authors of the report were sexist? Although to their credit they were upset that the women were prosecuted and the Johns got off with no punishment, in their day.

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