Situated just at the corners of Broad street and Fairmount avenue in Philadelphia rests a beautiful and majestic building. Though its been quickly falling into dilapidation. Once the home to Philadelphia's wealthiest is now a haven for the homeless, drug addicts, and aspiring graffiti artists. The luxurious living commodities are now bare skeletons of what they once were. Now many windows are plastered with plywood, and graffiti splashes colors of brightness onto the facade.
The Lorraine Apartments completed construction in 1894, and acted as luxurious apartments for many of Philadelphia's industrial magnates. At ten stories it was one of the first high-rise apartments in Philadelphia. It's ornate style, which was designed by architect Willis Hale, was deemed outdated when it opened. Though it did offer all the amenities a wealthy person could enjoy. These included electricity, a staff to help residents, as well as a central kitchen for food delivery. Though it only allowed those of the white race. In 1900 the structure was changed to the Lorraine Hotel. But the segregation would continue until 1948.
At this time the property was purchased by Father Divine the leader of the Universal Peace Mission Movement. After purchase Father Divine made a few changes. First he renamed the hotel. It was now called the Divine Lorraine Hotel. He also included several strict rules upon its patrons. These rules included no smoking, no profanity, no drinking, and no intermingling of sexes. Women were required to wear modest skirts or dresses. And rested on separate floors as the men. But all these rules were in his eyes good. He believed all were equal in the eyes of God. This made the hotel the first racially integrated hotel in Philadelphia, possibly the country. He broke down the doors of class that had restricted others from entering. The top floor auditorium was converted to a place of worship. The kitchen was now used to feed low cost meals to the less fortunate.
After Father Divine's death in 1965, his significantly younger wife began to run the congregation, as well as the Divine Lorraine. The church was also falling under lots of controversy. Father Divine was not generally held in the highest esteem among the general public. Many were upset by his race, and the fact he referred to himself as God. Several publicized sex scandals, and reports of improper sexual conduct, clouded the church's image as well.
The congregation slowly began disintegrating when he married a 21 year old, shortly after the passing of his first wife. Whom many within the church held in high esteem. Though he would later claim she was the reincarnate of his first wife, something the church didn't believe in previously. She would become known as Sweet Angel. Marriages also began to be celebrated, when earlier were held without much regard.
Shortly after Father Divine's death many came forth to proclaim his title. Jesus Emmanuel a former longtime member, and self proclaimed prophet came forth claiming he was the last of 5 naturally born children of Father Divine and his first wife, known as Mother Divine. He therefore claimed the peace mission as inheritance. He also held many other claims, including that the real Father Divine was housed in a mental institute, and the latest was an imposter. His bold claims made no impact on the close knit community.
Immediately after Father Divine's death, a church member offered protection at his compound in California, something the new Mother Divine quickly dismissed. He later came forth in 1971 claiming he was the Father Divine returned. After all he had let the peace mission members know he would take over control if Father Divine had ever passed. The two met in the 1950's and found the same concern in various social, and cultural issues. Mother Divine ordered him out of the church and was told never to return. Unfazed he quickly and quietly began to grow his congregation known as the People's Temple. Infamously this man was Jim Jones and later led 909 people to mass suicide at a compound in South America, all but two from cyanide poisoning. An event that became deemed as the "Jonestown Massacre", and led to the popular phrase "don't drink the kool-aid."
The Lorraine Hotel is a sight to see. You can imagine the rich strolling in their carriages out front. While marble floors lined your way through ornate architecture. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural history as well as it's role in civil rights. Many believe the locals truly respected the past of the hotel and that's why it was left alone for several years after abandonment. But after being purchased by a developer in 2006 the squatters quickly moved in. Now the hotel is merely a shell of it's former self. But as long as it's standing, it's history will be remembered.
See photos from inside.