Tom Parks' two houses are the talk of the neighborhood.
A shiny red three-story Victorian at 1837 16th St. NW that he shares with his wife Judy is an eye-catcher for fellow restorationists, commuters and even some out-of-towners. Its bay windows are topped with custom-fitted stained glass, and century-old French crystal chandeliers glisten from the first-floor windows. It was featured in a story in Thursday's Washington Post.
That increased the anger of some neighbors about Parks' other house, a two-story, brick house with a first-floor bay window at 1504 13th St. NW. That house has been frequented by prostitutes renting rooms for $10 per 20-minute throw, D.C. police say.
Neighbors describe it as a "trick pad," and on Monday, Parks pleaded guilty in D.C. Superior Court to keeping "a bawdy and disorderly house." He was fined $250 and federal marshals have been ordered to board up the house for a year.
When asked about their home on 16th Street, Parks and his wife portrayed themselves as a conscientious couple who were the first in their 16th Street neighborhood to renovate their home. They cleaned up around their house, hosing down the sidewalk and laying bricks around the trees on the block. Soon other people moved in and started fixing up nearby homes.
Neighbors of the 13th Street house were outraged.
"While they have been doing that in their neighborhood, they have been ruining my neighborhood," said Sandra Benson, whose Vermont Avenue home, she said, "has a clear shot" of the 13th Street house.
Another neighbor, Joan Brooks, said the 13th Street house "has made our quality of life very poor. It's brought in crime, people from out-of-town . . . Even my 17-year-old daughter was propositioned. It's an abomination."
"We have just been working with the police to get that place (at 13th Street) closed up," said Jackie Reed, another neighbor. "It's been a nightmare. All hours of the day and night, prostitutes would stand out front of the place. Men would come up in cabs."
"It was busier than Union Station at 12 noon," said Benson, who first learned of the illicit activity after her 14-year-old daughter had five friends over for a slumber party last spring. "The kids were up all night, glued to the window," she said.
Parks yesterday denied any knowledge of the prostitutes using the house, which he said was a rooming house accommodating 12 to 15 tourists a night. "It was not my intention to participate or to deal with any prostitutes," he said.
He said he bought the house at 13th Street two years ago, but it stayed vacant for quite some time. Parks, who described himself as an investor, said he got a license for a rooming house and opened the house as a tourist home in March. He said it was only open for eight weeks. He closed it on May 10 -- after a police raid.
Asked why he pleaded guilty Monday to keeping "a bawdy and disorderly house" Parks said. "I didn't want to go through a trial." He said the Logan Circle neighbors who complained about his house were "jealous, stupid and racist." Parks is black, many of the neighbors around the 13th Street house are white.
However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Rankin, who "was thinking about writing a letter to the editor" because of Thursday's article, said Parks had "the biggest bawdy house in Northwest Washington. This was one of the favorite places for the prostitutes."
Rankin said D.C. police had the 13th Street house, called TP Tourist Home, under surveillance from March 7 through May 7. At one point during that period, he said, they observed from 40 to 50 couples going into the house in a two-hour period.
Police refused to say how much Parks was making from the business.
In Thursday's article, Parks' wife, Judy, said the renovation cost of their 16th Street house was more than $150,000. "We didn't have the money in the bank to do it," she said, but they spent as they earned it.
"We know darn well where the money came from," said Barbara Rothenberg, a neighbor and chairman of the 3rd District police citizens advisory council.
According to court documents, Parks, would go to the 13th Street house every day and pick up records and cash from the previous night. Police raided his 16th Street home last April and recovered records and canceled checks pertaining to the 13th Street home.
Parks said yesterday that the money to finance his 16th Street house did not come from the 13th Street house. "I didn't make enough off it to put in a hole," he said.