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New book chronicles history of Minneapolis madams, brothels

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A Twin Cities author is examining the history of the sex trade in the late 19th century and early 20th century in Minneapolis with the release of a new book, the Star Tribune reports.

Set to be released July 8, Penny A. Petersen's "Minneapolis Madams: The Lost History of Prostitution on the Riverfront" is described by the publisher as a "surprising and riveting account of the Minneapolis red-light district and the powerful madams who ran it."

The book comes out 12 years after the author paused during a bike ride to look a 19th century apartment building at 212 11th Av. S. Her research yielded an old permit with notes that labeled the residence a "Sporting House" and "House of Ill Fame." See also sought out the history of the city's bordello culture by sifting through old newspapers, property records and court documents.

Making the St. Louis Park native's research difficult, the Star Tribune says, was the fact that most municipal court records before 1950 were thrown away, and many buildings that were bordellos were torn down.

Petersen, who now lives near downtown Minneapolis, tells the paper that didn't write "Minneapolis Madams" to condemn the city.

Still, Petersen criticizes the city for demolishing the buildings as a way to deal with its seedy past, which instead should have stood to embrace the city's complete history "warts and all."

The brick structure on 11th Street remains as the lone surviving bordello building of the past.

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