DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) – Today, it’s a trendy place in downtown Davenport to find locally made art. The Bucktown Center For The Arts opened in 2005 and gives local artists a place to create and display their works. But the Bucktown name has been around a lot longer than 11 years.
Local author Jonathan Turner just finished writing a book called “A Brief History of Bucktown”. Turner says around the turn of the century, Bucktown wasn’t just a building, it was an entire area of downtown Davenport. That area was filled with saloons and brothels. The term “Bucktown” referred to all the “young bucks” or men that came to the area to visit the brothels.
At the time, prostitution was legal in Davenport. A Davenport mayor, who was of German decent, wanted to bring some customs from the old country. Because prostitution was legal in Hamburg, Germany, Mayor Henry Vollmer legalized it in Davenport.
Not everyone was happy about having brothels in Davenport. The Bishop of the Davenport Diocese called the city the “wickedest” city in America, because of what went on in Bucktown.
After World War I, the military clamped down on brothels that were close to military installations. That, combined with prohibition, really changed the look of the Bucktown area. Today the former “red light district” is a district for arts and entertainment.
Jonathan Turner’s book has many more details about Bucktown and its history. You can find it at several locations around the Quad Cities, including the German American Heritage Center, Boho Chic at Bucktown Center and the Figge Art Museum gift shop in Davenport.