Dakota Datebook

Fargo’s Red Light District

Monday, October 21, 2013

 

Liquor and prostitution appear to go hand in hand, especially if the liquor is illegal. In the early Twentieth Century, most of the residents of Fargo who were prone to imbibe in the spirits of the vine, did so by crossing the bridge to Moorhead where wine and liquor were legal. But if they were looking for a little more warmth than alcohol could provide alone, then their footsteps may have veered to the seedier side of Fargo, to a place called the hollow. This was located at the foot of First Avenue North where, in a variety of establishments, the world’s oldest profession was practiced.

 

A woman by the name of Corrine Holmes recently had been issued an injunction, restraining her from conducting an immoral house in the Hollow, but she countered that she was in the hotel business. In fact, she was in the process of building a hotel that charged two dollars per day and there was nothing illegal going on. Nonetheless, she was under the watchful eye of the Enforcement League, an unofficial group of citizens dedicated to enforcing North Dakota’s constitutionally mandated prohibition law.

 

So, Fargo’s red light district carried a double vice in the eyes of the League and other organizations such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which supported the efforts to eradicate this menace to society. These efforts were directed by Andrew Johnson, one of the prime movers against the immoral houses, and a zealous leader of the Enforcement League in Fargo.

 

At 3:15 AM on this date in 1904, a terrific explosion rattled the windows across the city and echoed throughout the valley. As the dust settled, an uninjured Corrine Holmes viewed the damage. Although the blast was significant, the two and a half story building, with a thick foundation, was minimally damaged. The dynamite had been poorly placed under a small addition that took most of the force, and this section was reduced to kindling. A thirty-foot length of fuse, which burned at one foot per minute, had allowed the perpetrator to be long gone by the time of the explosion.

 

Corrine Holmes vowed to continue her hotel business and offered a $500 reward. The cowardly act actually aroused sympathy for Miss Holmes and suspicion was cast on the Enforcement League. Eventually, National Prohibition would be enacted, and liquor and prostitution would go even deeper underground, but until then, the hollow wasn’t necessarily a place for the sleepy.

 

Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis

 

Sources:

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican October 21, 1904

 

 

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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