Rich Wilhelm

Posts Tagged ‘North Broad Street’

Sunday Morning, North Broad Street, Part 2: The Divine Lorraine Hotel

In Divine Lorraine Hotel, Uncategorized on September 4, 2016 at 10:28 pm

The sign atop the Divine Lorraine Hotel on North Broad Street in Philadelphia. The only other sign in the city that is arguably as iconic would be the PSFS sign.

Part 2 of 2 of Rich and Chris’ Sunday morning exploration of North Broad Street.

After Chris and I had taken our last photos at the Beury Building, I thought it might be fun to visit the Divine Lorraine Hotel as well. There is a simple way to get from the Beury to the Lorraine: turn left on Broad Street and drive until you see the can’t-miss-it hotel looming above you on your left.

I chose a less-simple way, for one good reason: if I had straight down Broad Street, I would have passed Johnson Hall at Temple University. This is where my older son Jimmy is currently residing and I am quite frankly not certain he would have appreciated a drop-in visit from Chris and me at 8:30 this morning, as he was probably sleeping off the effects of the first day of the Made in America festival, in preparation for today’s second installment of that Jay-Z curated mega-jam concert on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

Therefore, to avoid the temptation to wake Jimmy up–and thus, annoy him–I drove north on Broad to the Roosevelt Boulevard. Turned left and drove to the Ridge Avenue exit. Left onto Ridge, past Laurel Hill Cemetery–where Beury Building namesake Charles Beury is buried–and continuing on Ridge until it intersects with Broad Street, at the exact spot where one can find the Divine Lorraine Hotel.

But that’s not the only reason took the lesser-direct route. There is also this: as someone who has lived around Philadelphia my entire life, I know certain places. In this case, the Beury Building. Temple University. Laurel Hill Cemetery. Divine Lorraine Hotel. But, aside from looking at a map, I don’t really know how these places are spatially related to each other until I start driving around, driving from one place to another along routes I may not have taken before. That kind of connecting the dots is fascinating to me and it reminds me of how fascinated I am by the neural connections each of us can sometimes make from one seemingly unrelated idea to another.

But I digress.

I easily found a spot to park behind the Lorraine and soon Chris and I were busy taking photos of it. Perhaps at this point, some history is in order.

The building that has become known as the Divine Lorraine Hotel was completed in 1894. The ornate Victorian style of the building was actually going out of style at just the time the building was completed. In 1948, the building was purchased by Father Divine, the well-known leader of the Universal Peace Mission Movement. Father Divine soon made the Divine Lorraine the first higher-class hotel in the United States to be fully racially integrated, though guests had to agree to special rules dictated by the tenets of Father Divine’s religion.

Since the movement sold the building about 20 years ago, it has gone through a period of serious deterioration, but is currently being renovated, with a completion date of March 2017. This explains why much of the building is currently covered in scaffolding. With this renovation, the Divine Lorraine appears to have a stronger lease on continued life than the Beury Building does, but only time will tell how either building will fare in the coming decades.

For now though, here is what the Divine Lorraine looked like today, September 4, 2016.


View from behind. Not only I had never walked around the Divine Lorraine area before, I had really seen the building from this angle, even in a car.


You GO GiRL!


UR Divine.


Just like the Beury Building, Chris had been wanting to see the Divine Lorraine up close for a while.


Detail, Divine Lorraine Hotel.


Detail, Divine Lorraine Hotel


Father Divine established the Divine Lorraine as the first major racially integrated hotel in the United States.


Chris has been visiting Pennsylvania Historic Markers, such as this one for Father Divine.


I wasn’t as serious as I appear to be here.


Current state of front door, Divine Lorraine Hotel.


South side of the Divine Lorraine Hotel. Most of the rest of the building is currently under scaffolding.


Finally, here is Chris taking photos of the Divine Lorraine Hotel with his tablet. Soon after I took this photo, we headed back out Ridge Avenue, with a quick stop at Laurel Hill Cemetery, before heading back home.
















Sunday Morning, North Broad Street, part 1: The Beury Building

In abandoned buildings, architecture, Philadelphia on September 4, 2016 at 8:35 pm

The National Bank of North Philadelphia, aka the Beury Building, aka the Boner 4ever Building.  Intersection of Broad Street, Erie Avenue and Germantown Avenue Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Sunday morning, Sept. 4, 2016

Entry one of two on how Chris and I spent our Sunday morning.

My son Chris woke up early this Sunday morning, looking for something to do. It seemed like a good time to check out the Beury Building.

Taking a closer look at this classic work of architecture, which is on the National Register of Historic Sites–but, which also has an uncertain future–has been on the agenda for nearly a year. We first noticed it driving down North Broad Street on our way to an open house at Temple University last fall. Our older son Jimmy, was very interested in Temple and is now, in fact, a brand new freshman there.

The Beury dominates the intersection of Broad Street, Erie Avenue, and Germantown Avenue, though of course it was the “Boner 4Ever” graffiti that prompted a chortle from Jimmy’s throat. That detail flew directly over Chris, but the building itself did not, as Chris is very interested in architecture, particularly abandoned buildings.

We’ve driven past the Beury a few times since then, each time whetting Chris’ desire to get a closer look at it. Today was finally the day.

Some brief history: the Beury was completed in 1926 and was originally simply known as the National Bank of North Philadelphia. The building became known as the Beury Building because the first president of the bank was Charles E. Beury, who was also the second president of Temple.

Of course, these days the Beury is often thought of as the Boner 4Ever Building, apparently thanks to two intrepid graffiti artists who often work in tandem, and whose tags are “Boner” and “4Ever.” At least that’s what the Internet tells me. “Boner 4Ever” tags are painted on both the north and south walls of the building.

The Beury has been empty for decades, though it is on the National Register of Historic Sites. Idealistic plans for a Beury Building revival do exist, though realistically, such plans face enormous challenges.

The trip to and from the Beury from Phoenixville is relatively straightforward, but there is rarely a time/day during which you can make that journey without hitting some major traffic. Sunday morning, before 8:00 a.m., however, is eminently doable. Chris was amazed at how empty the normally clogged Schuylkill Express was. From the Expressway, we hit Route 1 north–the infamous Roosevelt Boulevard–until we exited onto 611, Broad Street. From there it is just a mile or so to the Beury.

North Broad was quiet this morning, though people were out and about. Some people were going to church; some to work. I noticed two men exiting a “gentlemen’s club” across the street from the Beury. Not sure if they were headed to church, but who am I to say?

I found a very convenient spot to park–a Checkers restaurant right next to the Beury and the small building that sits next to it. Chris and I each took a bunch of photos, though we neglected to take shots of each other  and I forgot to use my random arty shot filter (not the technical term) to add odd effects. No matter though. We got some good photos and maybe someday we can get a few more. I am hopeful that the Beury will continue to stand for us to return sometime.

Now, here are some of my photos.


An imposing shot of the south wall, though this photo probably doesn’t do the building justice. Here though, we see “Forever,” rather than the “4Ever” on the north side. Also, notice the vegetation growing way up on the top floor.


The small building in the foreground houses a barbershop. Not open during our early Sunday morning visit, but I wish it had been. I could use a haircut.


The north side of the Beury, as well as the barbershop. Notice the barber pole graffiti on that building’s wall.


The north side of the Beury, including a ghost sign and “Boner 4Ever.”


Ghost sign on the north side of the Beury.


A more detailed shot of the north side of the Beury.

Once Chris and I got the photos we wanted, we hit the road to visit another notable North Broad Street landmark.



Patrick F. O'Donnell

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