Travel

Old Motels on Van Buren Street


Up until a few years ago, Van Buren Street in central Phoenix was a booming strip for prostitutes. The street used to be the main thoroughfare through Phoenix, and over the decades, the stretch of Van Buren from 24th to 32nd street in particular became well-known for countless prostitutes hawking their wares, then taking their johns into one of the street's many seedy motels.

There aren't many ladies of the night cruising the strip these days, but some of the motels where they did their deeds still stand, and still offer cheap (and probably really nasty) rooms. We took a few shots the last time we cruised around the area.

(Be advised, this area is still sketchy. We left after being stopped and questioned by four large and odorously intoxicated men hunkering in the doorway of the old Deer-O Paints and chemicals building.)

Van Buren Street's big sex worker boom was the '70s through the '90s. During this time, prostitutes from other states flocked to Van Buren for seasonal work and dozens of motels obtained adult business licenses that permitted them to show adult films and rent by the hour.

A heavy police crackdown four years ago and ongoing presence in the area has almost completely killed the prostitution business on Van Buren.

Police served seizure warrants on The Log Cabin and the Classic Inn in 2006, and all motels possessing adult-oriented business licenses surrendered them by 2007.

 

Some of the motels have since been razed. Their signs remain standing, in some cases. The handful of motels that remain are dilapidated but operational, and implement measures meant to deter the riff-raff, such as "no cash" policies.




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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea