Before the city's adult entertainment district settled in the Combat Zone it overran Scollay Square, now known as Government Center. During Scollay Square's heyday, a Boston judge called it the "crossroads of hell." Radio personality Fred Allen called it a "burial ground not listed in . . . guidebooks," bounded on one side by vagrants and grubby barrooms, on another by nightclubs and slot machine arcades, on a third by saloons "exuding an aroma of sauerkraut and steam."
Alarmed by what they felt was the spread of pornographic bookstores andclubs, the city passed a zoning law in 1974 that restricted all "adult entertainment" to the roughly four-block- square Combat Zone area. Most cities at that time adopted "dispersion" ordinances which meant - in Detroit, for example - that adult bookstores clubs had to be at least 1000 feet apart. Boston was the first - and 10 years later, city officials say, is still the only - American city to concentrate its adult entertainment district in one area.