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The Washington Street Residential District Site         
Site Number(s):   21RA32  
County:   Ramsey, MN  
City Township:   St. Paul  
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In 1997 construction was begun on a new Science Museum building in the city of St. Paul. During the course of site preparation, it became apparent that significant archaeological resources existed there. The city therefore gave archaeologists a month to explore and salvage them. The area, most recently occupied by the city morgue, once included Eagle, Franklin, and Washington streets and had for many years housed St. Paul's red light district. Public interest mounted when archaeologists uncovered the foundations of a brothel operated by Nina Clifford, the city's most famous madam.

Archaeology in progress
This building, at 147 South Washington Street, cost Nina Clifford $12,000 to build in 1888. Her bordello, which operated until 1929, catered to St. Paul's elite business establishment. Photo by Scott Anfinson of the Minnesota Historical Society.

In the course of their work, the archaeologists recovered more than 14,000 artifacts from several brothels and the privy of a saloon. The evidence they found effectively countered the myths of "sporting life" in the area and demonstrated the often gritty reality of prostitution as a way of life and business. In part this was shown by contrasting assemblages of artifacts -- one group from beside the front steps of the Clifford house and the other in its back yard. For photos and a full report, see



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Updated 29 Jun 1999