y walk to work this week took me past the recently opened Fairfield Marriott at the corner of 13th and Spruce. Under the newly electrified canopy, its sparkling clean automatic doors squeaked open, and I shed a quick tear for the memory of what had once been there. No, not for the safety, health, and fire hazard that was the Parker Hotel (per se), but for the gay bar that used to occupy its ground floor. We lovingly referred to the Westbury as the gay Cheers. My then-boyfriend and I lived only a block away, and spent many a Sunday afternoon there eating our weight in bacon-topped calorie bombs, washing them down with cheap mimosas. If the workday was too crazy, we’d drop in for an sizable portion of shepherd’s pie that they had produced in their Lilliputian kitchen. At the Westbury we felt at home, we felt a sense of belonging.
But why did the memory of this place and the people associated evoke such a visceral reaction? Why did the loss of this place feel like the loss of a community?
At its broadest definition, a community is a group of interconnected individuals. These connections in communities such as the Gayborhood are rooted in space and evolve over time. This concentration of blocks between Chestnut and Spruce, Broad and 12th, and the extended Washington Square West neighborhood have seen much of what is queer and amazing and wrong and wonderful about this city of ours.