(Image: Smallbones; abandoned: the 10 storey Divine Lorraine Hotel)
In its heyday, the Divine Lorraine Hotel was an iconic symbol of progress in Philadelphia. Originally known as Lorraine Apartments, the grand building was one of the city’s first high-rise structures, a hitherto unheard of 10 stories tall when it was built in the early 1890s at the corner of Broad Street and Fairmount Avenue.
Not surprisingly, the Late Victorian-style Lorraine Apartments attracted the rich and the elite, catering to their every whim with its own in-house staff. Philadelphia was booming, after all, as the Industrial Revolution turned the north side of the city into a mecca for the new industrialists.
The building didn’t become a hotel until later, when it was sold for $485,000 in 1948 to one Father Divine. As head of the Universal Peace Mission Movement, the cleric renamed the building and turned it into another Philadelphia landmark: the first completely racially integrated hotel in the United States.
All were welcome, as long as they followed Divine’s rules like no smoking, no drinking, and maintaining a modest appearance. Several large rooms at the Divine Lorraine Hotel were remodelled into public spaces, including a public dining room that provided low-cost meals to those in need.
The iconic Philadelphia landmark closed in 1999. The International Peace Mission sold it in 2000. Since closing, the building has been shuttled from owner to owner and gradually fallen into abandonment. Many of the grand features and other valuable internal fixtures have been stripped bare, rendering the once-glorious Divine Lorraine Hotel little more than a hollow, hulking shell. With its windows boarded up and graffiti scrawled across its walls, the building is a sorry shadow of its former self.
Despite being added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002, renovation plans eluded the abandoned Divine Lorraine Hotel for years, and the future looked bleak. That was until September of 2015, when a restoration effort finally began in earnest, as part of a huge movement to revitalise Philadelphia’s fortunes over the last two decades. Just as it was back in its heyday, the Divine Lorraine Hotel will once again be transformed into apartments.