If you live in Philly, you know the Divine Lorraine. It’s that amazing architectural relic at the intersection on Broad and Fairmount that has, sadly enough, been in a steady state of disrepair since the early 2000’s.
This is the building of my dreams. When I describe my dream job to people I say, I want to redesign the Divine Lorraine. Keep the historic aesthetic while rehabbing the interior. Half historic preservation and half interior design. Perfect. Unfortunately that will probably never happen, at least with the DL. Rumors are always swirling about this treasure that has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2002. After a March 20th roof fire, the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspection put a”repair or demolish” notice on the front door. However, Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger stated it’s an attempt to make the building more secure. So preservationists, fear not.
There are tons of websites that detail the long and pretty fascinating history of the building so that’s not what this post is about. Back in September I posted about the Hale Building in Center City and hinted to a post about another building, this building. But what’s the connection? Willis G. Hale. The architect of the Hale Building is also the architect of this amazing building. If you look carefully you can see similar elements that hint to Hale’s architectural style.
- For a basic history of the building visit it’s Wikipedia Page.
- A Citypaper article from 2005 showing interior photos before the dismantling.
- An amazing blog post from 2011 with photos documenting the dismantling on the buildings interior
- More information on Father Divine and The Universal Peace Movement
And for those dedicated readers that don’t want to schlep over to another site here are some quick tidbits…
- Designed by architect Willis G. Hale and built between 1892 and 1894
- Originally functioned as apartments for Philadelphia’s wealthy
- First hotel in Philadelphia to be racially integrated under Father Divine
- One of the first high rises in Philadelphia
- Father Divine, leader of the Universal Peace Mission Movement bought the building in 1948, for $485,000
- According to Wikipedia: “The Divine Lorraine was open to all races and religions, men and women who were willing to follow the rules of the movement. Among others, the rules included no smoking, no drinking, no profanity, and no undue mixing of the sexes, with men and women residing on different floors of the building. Additionally, guests and residents were expected to uphold a certain level of modesty, meaning that women were expected to wear long skirts – pants were not allowed. Believing that all people were equal in the sight of God, Father Divine was involved in many social welfare activities as well. For example, after purchasing the hotel, several parts of it were transformed for public use. The 10th-floor auditorium was converted to a place of worship. The movement also opened the kitchen on the first floor as a public dining room where persons from the community were able to purchase and eat low-cost meals for 25 cents.”
- It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 as a site significant in terms of both architectural and civil rights history
What’s happening now?
That’s a fabulous question. There is constantly talk about investors, reuse and rehabilitation but nothing concrete has been announced yet. Most recently there has been talk of turning it into a ‘hybrid campus‘ for local high schools and a local architect proposes a “full-service funerary center and crematorium. It would be the nation’s tallest columbarium, a multi-person vault for the storage of funerary ashes and personal mementos.” While I’m not thrilled with either of these ideas, I just want to see this gem saved. And, if I can get a job out of it, even better. Just sayin.