The Red Light District of a city is where the prostitutes, pimps, dealers and other unsavory characters await for unsuspecting prey. Known as this because of the prostitutes' method of getting people to "have" them for the night using the put on the red light method. See the node for more details about this.

Many cities have prominent red light districts; others are harder to find. If you're looking, that is.

The dictionary definition of red light district is the area of a town or city in which one would find brothels (whether by custom or ordinance in the areas that such things are legal). But I thought I had seen references to it that predate traffic lights; help arrives from

The term...was said to have originated in Dodge City, Kansas. Dodge City was a major stop for the railroad, and a convenient place for the train crews to visit ladies of negotiable virtue. When these men entered the brothels, as they often did, they would leave their red lanterns outside so they could be located in case of an emergency. The madams soon realized that a red light was an excellent way to advertise, and the custom spread. The red light in front of a place of prostitution eventually became a law, and every brothel and crib had to display the light during the night. Many cities also insisted that a red shade or curtain be hung in the windows of these establishments during the day. Seagraves 1994: 28
Snopes has an article about this theory, but they have been unable to verify it. In any case, though, mentions of it do predate the traffic situations found in modern cities, and tend to relate to a house having red lights.

Indeed, if one is reading a book where a house of ill repute appears, it may have red lights outside. Because of this, I used to think that everyone (well, at least members of the dominant American culture) knew what red lights outside a house signified.

I was riding in a pickup truck with two of my fraternity brothers one December night, and we passed a house whose Christmas lighting scheme was purely red light based. As a joke, I quipped, "Guess we know what in-home business they have!" Silence greeted me, followed by a "What do you mean?"

"They have red lights -- it means that it's a brothel, at least in theory," I said.

"That's weird. Must be another odd thing about your hometown." It occurred to me that they were both country boys. When we were all drinking later, they retold the story to everyone present and discovered that I was not pulling their leg.

It’s a place where the jackrabbits seem to be the only one’s
who obey the stop signs at the intersection of Avenue G and 7th Street
and prairie dogs make their way across what was once a vast grassland
and is now only interrupted by two lanes to allow for traffic.

It’s a place where the pink and the orange and the blue
seem to melt in a vat of color
and in the end, merge into one.

It’s a place where a woman makes her way down the middle of the street
she’s confined to a wheelchair and not the motorized kind either
and I think that she, like many other things in a small town are old school
and has made this journey countless times over the years
and the ruts she leaves remind me of the ruts covered wagons once made
when they made their similar journey so many years ago.

It’s a place where the quiet, the oh so quiet
is only disturbed by the sound of frying peppers and laughing babies
and little fingers pointed toward the sky
just like they always did.

It’s a place where the evening sky takes forever to turn dark
and the morning comes on like a fresh wave of sunlight
and what change does come, comes slowly
and in the end, it’s a place where those little fingers no longer
point directly at the sky or the lady in the wheelchair struggles on her errands
and all seem to be pointed in the right direction.

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