Copyright © James G. Mundie. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
This building — a sadly neglected but majestic landmark in North Philadelphia — was the first high-rise apartment building (10 stories!) in Philadelphia, designed by Willis Hale in the early 1890s. At the turn of the 20th century it was purchased by a large hotel company, and designated the Lorraine Hotel. Then in the late 1940’s, Father Divine of The Universal Peace Mission Movement bought the building and rechristened it with it’s current nom d’hotel.
Although operated by Universal Peace, the Divine Lorraine was open to those outside the movement, so long as they respected the rules of conduct during their stay. The Divine Lorraine was the first fully racially integrated hotel in Philadelphia, so it’s quite a literal landmark for the civil rights movement.
Several years ago a developer/speculator gutted the hotel of any decorative and useful interior architectural odds and ends that could be sold. The property was supposed to be turned into luxury condos (as seems to be the fate of any interesting historical building in this city that escapes the wrecking ball), but that deal fell through and the building has been sitting neglected and forlorn, falling into disrepair and acquiring a new collection of graffiti.
Rumor now has it that the building may be torn down due to problems with its foundation and the high value of the adjacent lot — which would be a sad day indeed for the city of Philadelphia.
I have been drawn to photograph this building on many occasions.
You can see Library of Congress archive photographs of the interior of the building while it was still actively in use here.
[Of course, the story has changed yet again since Professor Mundie wrote this text. Today we are anticipating the first real likelihood that this major landmark is finally about to be restored.]