Divine Lorraine Hotel is a fabulous Philadelphia ruin awaiting revival – ten blocks east of Philadelphia’s other fabulous ruin, Eastern State Penitentiary.
What earns it a spot in NewYorkitecture.com is that it was a New Yorker who made it Divine in the first place.
This building began life as the Lorraine Apartments – abodes for well-heeled Philadelphians. After a mere six years it was sold and converted to the Lorraine Hotel, a role it filled for almost half a century.
Then along came Harlem’s Reverend Major Jealous Divine, better known as Father Divine, whose Universal Peace Mission Movement bought the hotel in 1948. Divine, a black man who married a white woman at a time when interracial marriage was unthinkable, promptly radicalized the hotel. He renamed it Divine Lorraine Hotel, made it the first integrated U.S. hotel, required men and women (even if married) to stay on separate floors, converted ballrooms to places of worship, and installed a low-cost restaurant for the poor.
Though Father Divine died in 1965, his followers continued the hotel until 2000, when they sold it to developers. In 2006 the building was gutted for renovation, but the project was abandoned until fairly recently. Developer Eric Blumenfeld bought the property at auction in October 2012, with plans to revive it as apartments.
Divine Lorraine Hotel’s architect, Willis G. Hale, was born 1848 in Seneca Falls, N.Y. but moved to Philadelphia in the 1860s. His creations are known as wildly inventive – but few examples survive.
Divine Lorraine Hotel Vital Statistics
- Location: 1370 Fairmount Avenue at N Broad Street
- Year completed: 1894
- Architect: Willis Gaylord Hale
- Floors: 10
- Style: Victorian
- Pennsylvania Historical Landmark: 1994
- National Register of Historic Places: 2002
Divine Lorraine Hotel Recommended Reading