Red-light district

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A red-light district existed in downtown Pensacola in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries where transient sailors and port workers (as well as local Pensacolians) could engage in prostitution and debauchery without fear of retribution.

The prostitution district was well-defined, situated on Zaragoza Street between Palafox and Baylen Streets, and on Baylen from Main to Government Streets. Zaragoza Street in particular became known as "the Line," due to the row of adjacent bordellos. About fifteen such establishments were located within the district, most of them occupying former homes that were abandoned by families due to the nearby port activity.

The most famous of these brothels was owned by Mollie McCoy and was located at 15 West Zaragoza Street. It later served as headquarters of the Waterfront Rescue Mission until its demolition in 1966.

The red-light district closed permanently in 1941 after U.S. health officials ordered it quarantined.


  • James R. McGovern. "'Sporting Life on the Line': Prostitution in Progressive Era Pensacola." Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume LIV, Number 2, October 1975.