Obligatory Divine Lorraine Post

The Divine Lorraine. 05.2012 ©sbethy

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.

Historic Marker at The Divine Lorraine. 05.2012 ©sbethy

Historic Marker at The Divine Lorraine. 05.2012 ©sbethy

The Divine Lorraine. 05.2012 ©sbethy

The Divine Lorraine. 05.2012 ©sbethy

Divine Lorraine Sign 05.2012 ©sbethy

Exterior- Divine Lorraine  05.2012 ©sbethy

East side of the Divine Lorraine 05.2012 ©sbethy


About sbethy

I have three college degrees including a Masters in Historic Preservation. Since many people aren't hiring preservationists right now I thought this would be a great outlet to document and hopefully publicize amazing buildings that I believe need attention. Originally from NY and currently living in NJ just over the bridge(s) from Philadlephia most of the places I'll feature will be in these areas. If anyone reading this has any buildings they are curious about or love and want to share, let me know and I'll do a little research, take some photos and you'll see the building highlighted. You'll see that I don't tend to focus on pretty buildings that have been perfectly restored. I tend to be drawn to ones that are more in a state of disrepair or are clearly underutilized. There is something about that aesthetic that I am drawn to and makes me wonder about its history- what was it's function, who worked/lived there, who built it, what happened to it, can it be saved? Also, whenever possible I am going to use all my own photography since I love taking photos as well.
This entry was posted in historic preservation, Philadelphia, preservation, Uncategorized, under-utilized, urban exploration and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Obligatory Divine Lorraine Post

  1. elyse says:

    What a marvelous building!! One would hope something of value would come out of this.

  2. elyse says:

    A lovely hotel or senior housing would be interesting.

  3. nammitt says:

    what’s the latest on the Divine Lorraine?
    Here’s a video from 3 months back with Eric Blumenfeld.. speaking from the top floor of the D.L. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rNL3ly99F4
    contact with any updates hammitt@design.upenn.edu

  4. Johnd223 says:

    Wow, superb blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is wonderful, let alone the content! decekkdffacc

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