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The Divine Lorraine





 

The Divine Lorraine 

The Lorraine apartments building came into existence on the corner of Broad and Fairmount in the 1894. Catering to the wealthier citizens of the city, the Lorraine boasted an in-house staff as well as electricity in all apartments. A centralized kitchen also meant that there was no need for a personal one, since daily meals could be delivered to you as needed. The hotel made a name for itself through its luxurious amenities, and also the fact that it was one of the first high-rises in all of the city of Philadelphia. The architect behind this beautiful landmark was a Mr.Willis Gaylord Hale, who himself was a resident of the city.

Willis Gaylord Hale designed numerous buildings around the city of Philadelphia throughout his years, but as time progressed his heavily Victorian-influenced design work became replaced by the sleeker (and exponentially simpler) constructions which were coming into popularity after the turn of the 20th century. Sadly most of the structures which Willis Gaylord Hale created during his lifetime no longer stand today, with many of them having been razed after the Great Depression to make way for modern structures throughout the city. This all culminates to make the Lorraine building all the more important, as it now stands as a symbol of the beauty which was old Philadelphia, and as a reminder of what was lost through the city's short-sighted architectural modernization. Still, there is far more to the story of the Lorraine apartments building than just its outward beauty...

This building truly came into the limelight in 1948 when Father Divine purchased it to use as a housing facility for the Universal Peace Mission Movement, renaming it with the badge it carries to this day; the Divine Lorraine Hotel. The Universal Peace Movement was open to people of all sexes, religions, and unlike most anything of the era – all races. Thus making the Divine Lorraine one of the first racially integrated hotels of its kind in the United States. Shortly after the purchase of the hotel, Father Divine altered the top-floor auditorium for use as a public place of worship. He also opened the hotel's kitchen to the needy, charging only 25 cents for a meal. Opinions on Father Divine and his work vary immensely, ranging from that of literally being God incarnate (yes, really), to the possibility that he was in fact a fraud and one of the first public cult leaders in the nation. Though his life was nothing short of a scandal-fueled roller coaster, this does not change the fact that a number of Father Divine's actions did better our society profoundly.

So the Divine Lorraine hotel exists today not only as a beautiful and rare relic of the past, but as a place which very publicly aided in the civil rights movement during a crucial time. Though several attempts have been made to redevelop the old hotel, it wasn't until 2014 that a plan was really able to get proper traction. The building is now in the hands of EB Realty Management, and they have done an amazing job rehabilitating the Divine Lorraine to once again stand as the celebrated landmark it deserves to be.

 
 

 


Looking upward at the inner balconies.


The building was stripped of its walls and rooms years ago, now each floor is one large open space with support beams.









 



 





 




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