Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Divine Lorraine

So I have a fascination with abandoned buildings, usually verging on creepy and Philadelphia's the Divine Lorraine Hotel is no exception. I've been in love with the architecture of this beauty for quite sometime and every time we pass it, my boyfriend and I always comment on how much of a waste it is to have such an amazing looking building just sitting in the city, wasting away.

So last night, I decided to do a little research and find out what the story is behind the little lady. It turns out, that before it was the Divine Lorraine Hotel, it was called the Lorraine Apartments. Standing at ten stories high, Willis G. Hale constructed one of Philadelphia's first high-rise buildings. Between 1894 and 1948, this was where many of those who became wealthy during the industrial revolution lived.

In 1948, Father Divine of the Universal Peace Mission Movement, bought the building for a measly (by today's standards, of course) $485,000. He turned it into a hotel and renamed it, the Divine Lorraine. This hotel was the first of its kind in Philadelphia to be fully racially integrated. 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. 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.

The building was closed in 1999 and sold in 2000. In May 2006 it was resold to Philadelphia developer Michael Treacy, Jr. and the plan was to have the building converted into condominiums. Development has stalled and the building remains in its dilapidated state. I find this pretty fascinating. I'm aware that my city is one of the oldest in the country and much history resides here, but nothing new that I learn will cease to interest and amaze me. This building was also one of the first in the city and at the time to offer it's residents electricity. You never what you're looking at or walking by on a daily basis until you do a little digging. Now for photos that I found.

I'm sure there are squatters staying here on a daily basis, but it looks as if everyone just got up and left. The room with the ironing boards, very creepy. The building now has the windows boarded up until the third or fourth floor, as well as the doors. I'm assuming it's no longer accessible, but I would die to get a peek inside with my camera.


Ashlie said...

i'm so glad you wrote about that building. i am also fascinated by it. it's beautiful. i wish i would've gotten the chance to sneak inside and take a look. i'll have to come back soon and check it out.

Ki said...

http://kingstonlounge.blogspot.com/ There are more photos from 2006 on this blog, as well as more about its current status as an architectural husk.

Nicole said...

I too am in love with this building. So glad to have found so many pictures, old & new, of the interior. Amazing! Up for a little exploring???? We could have a small group excursion...Shhhh! It'll be our little secret ;)

Chérie said...

Nicole, I would love to join in on such an adventure, although I'm not sure how safe it is to do so. I think that's mostly why I haven't tried exploring it on my own. Squatters and unstable areas within the building don't me feel at ease. I really wish the plans to renovate it would begin already. Prime real estate and a lot of money to be made there. Not to mention the beauty it will bring to the city and that neighborhood!

CCP said...

I saw this building for the first time and fell in love with it when I was in Philadelphia for New Years, and finally took the time today to figure out what it is. I want to know everything! And I'm irrationally emotional about the fact that it has been gutted/abandoned, and left to rot. Plan: buy it, restore it to its former glory, get all dressed up and dance for hours in that glorious ballroom.

Chérie said...

I feel your pain, trust me! There are currently talks surrounding the next use of the building going on. Still not sure in what direction it is headed. A recent article I read suggested linked the surrounding schools around it and using the building for an art museum/gallery space and possibly studios for teaching artistic avenues. Everything is always seems to just be talk, so who knows really.

As someone who is completely engaged in design and has an unconditional love for architecture, it pains me greatly to see it in this state. But what lifts my spirits on this topic, is that amount of attention it constantly gathers from people who equally adore Miss Lorraine. It's only a matter of time and when she's complete you'll have to come back and be in awe of her beauty once again. I know I will. :)