It's got two stars on Yelp, a whopping one and a half on TripAdvisor, but what may be surprising is that the tenants of the Spruce Parker Hotel at 13th and Spruce have access to the internet, or even know what it is. However, if you take the time to read any of the reviews you may see a wide gap between the urban legends that surround the place and those told by many who've stayed there.
Not long ago our inner cities were dotted with unassuming hotels that appealed to international backpackers or fresh faced high school graduates with no credit and minimum wage jobs. Something happened between Adventures in Babysitting and Sex and the City.
Old City's eclectic grit has been replaced with luxury lofts and parking lots for their tenants and the Furnished Room District's flop houses and dive bars were eradicated for the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Meanwhile, backpackers have uncovered chains of clean hostels while kids who want an affordable piece of the city have decided to watch it from the shores of their parents' basements.
It's good and bad. The Spruce Parker's popular perception is indicative of the polarized vision behind the New City, those who don't remember sacrificing luxury amenities for a piece of downtown, those who pride themselves on tolerance but pull their child a little closer when they see a transsexual walk past Nest...those who use brunch as a verb.
While there is some truth in the Spruce Parker's reputation, it's truth that lies in any hotel that doesn't require a credit card. Does it harbor prostitutes and drug dealers? Quite possibly. But so does a Motel 6 that sidles up to a truck stop. One that also houses travelers looking for a cheap room.
Throughout the Spruce Parker's storied history it's never been a source of pride, but its stable presence proves it serves a demand. Some of the negative attitude towards the hotel may be warranted, but reserve your judgments until you've been inside. Would the corner of 13th and Spruce be better if the hotel were apartments, condos, or dorms? Perhaps.
But would the corner of 13th and Walnut be safer without Woody's? Would the small streets between 12th and 13th be safer without iCandy, Tavern on Camac, and Voyeur? Dangerous things happen when you take property owners to task for evils that the city is responsible for enforcing.
Next time you cast stones from a nearby condo, ask yourself, are you concerned with the activity you think takes place in the Spruce Parker, or are you concerned with the fact that you simply don't like someone enjoying the city from a $59 a night bed? But more importantly, as you're licking the icing off the cake of the city, ask yourself what's next? The only thing under it is bread.