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Murder Bay is visible at the far left

Murder Bay was a disreputable slum in Washington D.C. roughly bounded by Constitution Avenue NW, Pennsylvania Avenue NW, and 15th Street NW (the area currently known as Federal Triangle). The area was a center of crime with an extensive criminal underclass and prostitution occurring in several brothels in the area.[1][2]

C Street NW near 13th Street NW in 1912: Known from the mid-1800s to the 1920s as "Murder Bay," this area was home to numerous brothels.


In the 1860s, much of the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site south of Pennsylvania Avenue had become a disreputable slum known as Murder Bay, the home to an extensive criminal underclass and numerous brothels.[3][4][5][6] During the American Civil War, so many prostitutes took up residence in Murder Bay to serve the needs of General Joseph Hooker's Army of the Potomac that the area became known as "Hooker's Division."[4][5][6] The two trapezoidal blocks sandwiched between Pennsylvania and Missouri Avenues (now the site of the National Gallery of Art) became home to such expensive brothels that it gained the nickname "Marble Alley."[5] In the 1870s and 1880s, the avenue was the site of significant competition between horse-drawn streetcar and chariot companies.[7]

A large house known as Bull's Head existed at the rear of the hotel that is now Old Ebbitt Grill. The house marked the northwest corner of "Murder Bay". Bull's Head housed prostitutes and contained a large, lower-class gambling den.[8]

On March 25, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson issued Executive Order No. 11210, which established the Temporary Commission on Pennsylvania Avenue.[9] The area was cleaned up and eventually became part of the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site, specifically, the area now known as Federal Triangle.

External linksEdit


  1. ^ "Ariel Rios Building, Washington, D.C.". (General Services Administration official site). Retrieved May 18, 2008.
  2. ^ Savage, Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape, 2009, p. 100-101; Gutheim and Lee, p. 73; Lowry, p. 61-65; Evelyn, Dickson, and Ackerman, p. 63-64.
  3. ^ Savage, Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape, 2009, p. 100-101.
  4. ^ a b Gutheim and Lee, Worthy of the Nation: Washington, DC, From L'Enfant to the National Capital Planning Commission, 2006, p. 73.
  5. ^ a b c Lowry, The Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell: Sex in the Civil War, 1994, p. 61-65.
  6. ^ a b Evelyn, Dickson, and Ackerman, On This Spot: Pinpointing the Past in Washington, D.C., 2008, p. 63-64.
  7. ^ Tindall, Standard History of the City of Washington From a Study of the Original Sources, 1914, p. 421-422.
  8. ^ "Story of Murder Bay." Washington Post. July 8, 1888.
  9. ^ Asher, "President Sets Up New Avenue Unit," Washington Post, March 26, 1965.

Coordinates: 38°53′35″N 77°01′48″W / 38.893°N 77.03°W / 38.893; -77.03