Thirteenth Street, Philadelphia.
If you are of a certain age, just saying 13th Street conjures up images of hookers, drug dealers, wig shops and pizza. And yes, those elements are still there, albeit decorated with a new coat of paint and bright crime-stopping lighting.
But there was a time when only those daring enough would walk on 13th Street between Market and Spruce. Of course, those daring enough included those where 13th was a destination: the punks to clubs like the East Side (13/Chestnut) and the gay community to the various clubs and bars along the strip.
As long as I can remember, OK Pizza has been on 13th Street at the corner of St. James. It was the after-hours location once the after-hour clubs closed and the street there was filled with people just hanging out through the night (no cops were there to keep people moving). I'd leave the DCA (now Pure) and grab a slice and talk til the sun rose with friends, old and new.
Of course, one could always go to All In The Family lounge - easily one of the dumpiest stripper bars I've ever seen, which was directly across the street from OK Pizza. I once saw a stripper with a black eye put change into the jukebox, just so she could dance around a pole for no one.
Klassy with a capital K.
Further up 13th you can find Drury Lane - home of an irish pub (I want to say it was McGillian's) and The Drury Bar - which was a gay bar and restaurant. The space was two floors and had a kick ass brunch on Sundays which somehow ended at 2am, no matter how early you arrived. The bar went through a few name changes and owners in the 1980s and I don't think its anything now -- here's a picture of the alley - The Drury Bar was located in that sold property.
The block of 13th Street between Spruce and Locust was old, abandoned brownstone homes. There was no business there - except for the hookers that went to the Parker Hotel at the corner of 13/Spruce. The Westbury was still at its original location at the corner of 15/Spruce and I don't recall what was under the Parker - perhaps nothing. I do remember AppleJack's though ... it was a deli where Valanni is today - that had the best sandwiches and also sold take out beer. It was my 'kitchen' when I lived at 1302 Pine Street ... and if you were lucky, you could get one of the three booths in the back and actually eat in, versus having it to go.
In 1981, in one of the brownstones on 13th, I began to do some volunteer work for the Philadelphia Gay News - this was their original home. The rent was cheap (if not free) and I remember that the floor to the first floor (which was all the PGN used, since the rest of the house was falling apart), was not even ... and there was a clear plastic tarp that hung from the ceiling to catch debris as it fluttered to the ground. It was quite a sight. In doing some online surfing, I came across a wonderful picture -- for those of you who have ever been to Bump (13/Locust), let's travel back to 1913 and see that location in action.
One of those brownstones on 13th Street, behind the corner building, was where the PGN was located in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Of course the corner building [where Bump is today] is gone, but if you look down Locust Street you can see the side of The Lincoln, which at this time might have been nice - - but by 1980 was a fleabag hotel.
There were four fleabag flop houses in this area: The Lincoln, The Parker, The Kesmon and one other on 11th near Walnut (name escapes me). The Parker is the only one to remain - although now it's just a low-income housing. The Kesmon was finally closed in the mid-80s after a couple on-site murders - and was completely renovated into The Alexander Inn at 12/Spruce.
As for The Lincoln, its biggest claim to fame was that it had a speakeasy in the bottom level, back in the day [the day being the 1920s].
You entered via a door on Camac Street (the Lincoln still sits at the corner of Camac and Locust) and in 1981, that old speakeasy space became the new home of Philly's Gay Community Center - just for a few years, until the building was bought, gutted and made into apartments.
Across from the Lincoln was probably one of the more mystical spaces around (next to Harry's Occult Shop, that is).... it was Rose's Tea Room.
The building was covered completely in ivy and I only was in there once - it was a tea shop, but the story on the street was it was owned by witches!! Of course, now I know that it was actually owned by wiccan folk, but back then just knowing that witches lived on the block made for a better story!