After Years Of Decay, Philadelphia's First Racially Integrated Hotel Rebuilds05:05
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The Divine Lorraine Hotel, a late Victorian high-rise located on Broad Street and Fairmount Avenue in North Philadelphia. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
The Divine Lorraine Hotel, a late Victorian high-rise located on Broad Street and Fairmount Avenue in North Philadelphia. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)

The Divine Lorraine Hotel is one of Philadelphia's most prominent examples of blight.

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.”
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The Lorraine Apartments was renamed the Divine Lorraine Hotel in 1948 when it was purchased by spiritual leader Father M. J. Divine. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
The Lorraine Apartments was renamed the Divine Lorraine Hotel in 1948 when it was purchased by spiritual leader Father M. J. Divine. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
The Divine Lorraine Hotel in Philadelphia. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
The Divine Lorraine Hotel in Philadelphia. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
Because of the Lorraine's popularity, a guard is kept on duty while construction continues. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
Because of the Lorraine's popularity, a guard is kept on duty while construction continues. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
Outside of the Divine Lorraine Hotel, sign is posted about Father Divine, a spiritual leader and former owner of the hotel. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
Outside of the Divine Lorraine Hotel, sign is posted about Father Divine, a spiritual leader and former owner of the hotel. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
Developer Eric Blumenthal takes Here & Now's Robin Young on a tour of the Divine Lorraine Hotel. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
Developer Eric Blumenthal takes Here & Now's Robin Young on a tour of the Divine Lorraine Hotel. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
Graffiti on the first floor of the Divine Lorraine. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
Graffiti on the first floor of the Divine Lorraine. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
Here & Now producer Dean Russell stands in the first floor of the Divine Lorraine Hotel in North Philadelphia. (Robin Young/Here & Now)
Here & Now producer Dean Russell stands in the first floor of the Divine Lorraine Hotel in North Philadelphia. (Robin Young/Here & Now)
Eric Blumenthal, developer and owner of the Divine Lorraine Hotel building, shows Here & Now's Robin Young the basement level, which includes an old entrance to a Prohibition-era speakeasy. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
Eric Blumenthal, developer and owner of the Divine Lorraine Hotel building, shows Here & Now's Robin Young the basement level, which includes an old entrance to a Prohibition-era speakeasy. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
Christopher Cordero of EB Realty Management Corp. looks out the windows of the Divine Lorraine Hotel. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
Christopher Cordero of EB Realty Management Corp. looks out the windows of the Divine Lorraine Hotel. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
A bedroom in a sample apartment at the Divine Lorraine Hotel. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
A bedroom in a sample apartment at the Divine Lorraine Hotel. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
The finished living room in the Divine Lorraine Hotel's sample apartment. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
The finished living room in the Divine Lorraine Hotel's sample apartment. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
Because of the Divine Lorraine Hotel's cult following, fans are buying swag, like these shoes. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
Because of the Divine Lorraine Hotel's cult following, fans are buying swag, like these shoes. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)

Guest

Eric Blumenfeld, developer and owner of the Divine Lorraine Hotel. He is also president of EB Realty Management Corp.

This segment aired on July 29, 2016.

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