The late Victorian complex was built in 1894 as a stylish set of apartments. When it changed hands 54 years later, it became the first racially integrated hotel in the city and a symbol of pride and luxury.
For more than a decade, the building was abandoned, trashed and covered in graffiti. Eric Blumenfeld, a Philadelphia-based developer, decided to change that. He bought the building in 2012 and since last year, with $44 million of public and private investment, he has led the effort to bring the historic building back to life.
Here & Now‘s Robin Young spoke with Blumenfeld about the praise and concerns for the project, and took a tour through the old hotel.
“You know, there’s such a mystique,” Blumenfeld said of the building. “I’ve been doing this my whole career and I’ve never seen anything like the Divine Lorraine… This building was teetering on demolition for about a decade. And to me it was kind of representative of what this city is going to do — we were at a crossroad, and if we could not salvage such a beautiful piece of history and architecture, it made a poor statement on the future of Philadelphia.”