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Brothel Owners Take a Ride Presents
Historic Portsmouth #342

This may be the strangest photo ever seen in this column. In a recent feature on the city’s “red light” district, we included a photo of Portsmouth’s last known bordello madam Alta Roberts, courtesy of historian Kimberly Crisp. Roberts was the great, great aunt of Crisp, who has done extensive research on prostitution along Water Street (now Marcy Street) at the turn of the 20th century. (Continued with details below)



That photo of Mrs. Roberts, was taken in 1933 when she was 78. The city forced the closure of the profitable bordellos in the South End in 1912. Here, in another extremely rare image loaned by Crisp, we see Alta and friends posing in a motorcar inside a photo studio around 1900. There is a real tree and painted scenery in the background with a road sign pointing towards Venice. If only we knew what was going on that day! Clockwise: William McGinnis (Ida’s husband), Ida McGinnis (Roberts’ niece), Leona Hayward (Roberts’ niece), and Alta Roberts herself. The identity of the man in the bowler hat remains a mystery, as does 99% of the story of the city’s red light district. (Courtesy Kimberly E. Crisp)

READ about teen abducted to brothel


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All photos (c) Kimberly Crisp. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, February 25, 2018 
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