I rang in the new year with friends in Philadelphia this year, and this was my favorite takeaway.
The Divine Lorraine Hotel has always caught my eye whenever I'm in Philadelphia. It's this majestic abandoned building with extensive graffiti, suggesting a level of grandeur that has all but abandoned North Philadelphia today.
Built between 1892 and 1894, the building was one of the most luxurious and best preserved late 19th-century apartment houses in Philadelphia, later becoming a hotel when it was purchased by the Metropolitan Hotel Company in 1900. It was the first hotel in Philadelphia to be racially integrated, open to all races and religions under Father Divine, the leader of the Universal Peace Mission Movement (thanks Wikipedia!).
The building closed in 1999 and has been sold, resold, and slowly fallen into greater disrepair as the years pass by. Every time I see the Divine Lorraine, I'm left wondering whether it will ever be restored to its former glory. Nowadays its presence as a woebegone luxury building seems to be a more powerful testament to the times and its place in the narrative of North Philadelphia.
In black and white, the Divine Lorraine looks ethereal, haunted, and elegant to me. The graffiti seems to disappear and the sign has an old-Hollywood elegance about it. The shadows on the left contrasted against the sun-soaked balconies made me think about the juxtaposition of the past and present, lightness and darkness, and the power of perspective. They always say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Indeed, the Divine Lorraine is and always will be a thing of beauty.