Friday, October 19, 2007

WTF Place of the Month: Parker Spruce Hotel

One of the pleasures of walking a through a heavily gentrifying center city neighborhood is the appearance of a building or business that does not belong. It may be a dilapidated apartment building, a working class corner bar in the midst of high end nightlife, or an old time diner. Nevertheless, these types of places stand out amongst the modern condominiums, lounges, fusion restaurants, and coffee shops of the post-industrial city.

This is not an anti-gentrification dissertation. I don't want to turn the clock back 30 years on Philadelphia when most of the center city was dead save for a couple of gentleman's burlesque houses. I would, however, like to see some old symbols remain. The Parker Hotel on 1300 Spruce Street is one of them.

When you see the Parker Hotel, considering it's location, you ask yourself, "WTF"? Within two blocks of the Parker Hotel, there are Korean and Japanese Restaurants, as well as a hipster bar named Dirty Franks, housing for University of Arts students, musical instrument stores, and the last drop. The Parker Hotel, on the other hand, presents a run-down appearance that is contrasted by these immediate surroundings, embodied by the hotel's utilitarian 1920s design and the dirty, indistinct sign in front (not very visible in the pic, but you get the idea). Whenever I look in the lobby, one of the two elevators is inevitably broken, there are mattresses leaning against the wall, and there is absolutely no sign of a continental breakfast. In many ways, the Parker Hotel represents what the area used to be, a haven for trannies and prostitutes. Incidentally, the hotel is located a block away from where Officer Daniel Faulkner was presumably shot by Mumia Abu-Jamal in 1981

The Parker hotel was built in the 1925, intending to be provide small, affordable "bachelor apartments" to single males in the city. Eventually, these residential hotels were supplanted by condominiums in the later half of the 20th century. The Parker Hotel remains one the last of its kind in Philadelphia.

Who does it house now? Drug addicts/dealers, homeless men who gathered a bit of scratch and do not want to stay in a shelter for a night, men who are kicked of their houses by wives/girlfriends, and, believe it or not, a few actual lower-mid salary professionals who embrace the hotel's seedy atmosphere. The street it is located on, 13th, has a reputation for being wild, but as someone who walks through it often, it just seems like any other bar/club strip.

If you want to know more about the Parker Hotel, the Philadelphia Weekly had a piece on it last year.

As I was walking home from work yesterday, a large man exited the Parker Hotel and walked in front of me. He had tattoos down his arms and white t-shirt with a dragon design plastered on the back. He walked two blocks, turned down an alley, and proceeded to hand off some drugs to a 20-something white young professional.

I wasn't even trying, and one of the few times I walk past the hotel on my way home I stumble upon a drug transaction! Fantastic.

Don't tear this place down.