The Combat Zone was the name given in the 1960s to the adult entertainment district in downtown Boston, Massachusetts. Centered on Washington Street between Boylston Street and Kneeland Street, the area was once the site of many strip clubs, peep shows, X-rated movie theaters and adult bookstores. It also had a reputation for crime, including prostitution.
During the Combat Zone’s heyday, some of the larger strip clubs were the Teddy Bare Lounge, the Two O’Clock Club, Club 66 and the Naked I Cabaret. Besides the strip clubs and X-rated movie theaters, numerous peep shows and adult bookstores lined most of Washington Street between Boylston Street and Kneeland Street. In 1976, the Wall Street Journal called the area “a sexual Disneyland.”
The name “Combat Zone” was popularized through a series of exposé articles on the area written by Jean Cole in the 1960s for the Boston Daily Record.The name had a double meaning: not only was the area known for crime and violence, but many soldiers and sailors on shore leave from the Boston Navy Yard would frequent the many strip clubs and brothels in uniform, giving the streets the appearance of a war zone
The Combat Zone began to form in the early 1960s, when city officials razed the West End and former red light district at Scollay Square, near Faneuil Hall, to build the Government Center urban renewal project. Displaced Scollay Square denizens relocated to the lower Washington Street area because it was only half a mile away, the rents were low, and the residents of nearby Chinatown lacked the political power to keep them out.
Lower Washington Street was already part of Boston’s entertainment district with a number of movie theaters, bars, delicatessens and restaurants that catered to night life. It was located between the classic, studio-built movie palaces such as the RKO-Keith andParamount theaters and the stage theaters such as the Colonial on Boylston Street.With the closing of the burlesque theaters in Scollay Square, many of the bars began to feature go-go dancers and later nude dancers.During the 1970s, when laws against obscenity were relaxed,many of the movie theaters then showing second-run films began showing adult movies