Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Wicked St. Augustine: From George Gardner's "St. Augustine Report"

From former Mayor George Garddner's St. Augustine Report comes this book review:

A 'wicked' side of St. Augustine 
   Today the building on the corner of Cathedral Place and Charlotte Street houses an art gallery. In 1902 it was Sam Wo's Chinese Laundry - and opium den, used primarily by women who were forbidden to possess alcohol.
   Further along Charlotte Street is the Tradewinds Lounge, in 1920 one of a number of gambling clubs.
   And 262 West King Street, later the Chase Funeral Home, was in the first half of the 20th century Blanche Altavilla's "Country Club" from which she operated a block and beyond of brothels, taverns, pool halls and gambling houses.
   "When Pedro Menendez de Aviles founded St. Augustine in 1565, his new world survival kit included gambling, liquor and ladies for hire," writes Ann Colby in her thoroughly researched Wicked St. Augustine. "For the next 400 years, these three industries were vital in keeping the city financially afloat."
   Poring over court and property records, oral histories and newspaper accounts, Colby has pulled together an account of St. Augustine history never highlighted in tourist guides but regardless a significant part of that history.
   As Colby concludes, "Organized prostitution, bootlegging and gambling were nothing if not hallowed traditions in the Oldest City for close to four hundred years, contributing to the city's economy and stability as well as its reputation as an entertainment venue."
   Wicked St. Augustine, published 2020 by The History Press, Charleston SC.

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