Quirky Facts and Religious History Behind Philadelphia's Divine Lorraine Building

The building known as the Divine Lorraine Hotel has stood on North Broad Street in Philadelphia since the late 1800s.

But when in 1948, Father Divine, leader of the International Peace Mission movement, bought the building, it grew in prominence. 

For decades after his death in 1965, however, the Divine Lorraine was closed, sold and left vacant. Not until recent years has the hotel been restored — thanks to a new developer willing to spend $44 million and turn it into apartments.

The Divine Lorraine Hotel appears to be ready to welcome residents again, after this week's unveiling of its grand lobby. Currently, about half the apartments in the 101-unit building are rented after the building's re-opening last year. In honor of the building entering a new era, here's some quirky facts about its past.

Divine Lorraine Ex-Owner Claims to Be God: The previous owner of the Divine Lorraine, the Reverend Major Jealous Divine, also known as Father Divine, was called God incarnate by his followers and allegedly even claimed to be God in the 1930s. Father Divine died in 1965. His wife, Mother Divine, died earlier this year.

How the Hotel Was Purchased: The hotel is said to of been purchased completely through donations from Divine’s followers.

Divine Lorraine Guest Rules: Guests and residents of the hotel were not allowed to smoke, drink or curse. Men and women had to reside on different floors. Modesty was upheld, and women were not allowed to wear pants.

Divine Lorraine Open to the Public: Divine opened up parts of the hotel to the public. The 10th floor auditorium became a place to worship and the first floor kitchen was a place where people could buy meals for 25 cents. 

Who Is Father Divine Really? - Although there is much speculation there is no confirmed information about who Father Divine was before he became "Father Divine." Some say Divine's given name was George Baker, son of Eliza Mayfield; however, his birth parents and given name remain clouded in mystery.  

Mysterious Deaths Surrounding the Divines - In 1932, Divine was sentenced to a year in jail for disturbing the peace, according to Just days later, the sentencing judge died. Some sources, including PBS, say Divine told a reporter, "I hated to do it." Divine was released days after the judge's death.

In 2012, an 84-year-old resident of the Divines’ Woodmont property, located in Gladwyne, went missing. The resident of the 72-acre mansion and hilltop estate was later found dead, according to Lower Merion police.

A tour of Woodmont, the palatial, 72-acre estate in Montgomery County, revealed the beauty of the longtime home of Father Divine’s widow and followers. His body remains at the compound in a shrine dedicated to him, and a new $2 million library and museum is set to open later this year.

Divine Lorraine Owner's Marriage - Sweet Angel, Divine’s second wife, was about 45 years younger than Divine. Both Divine’s first wife, Peninnah or Sister Penny, and second wife, Sweet Angel, were known as Mother Divine because it is said that Sweet Angel had taken Sister Penny’s spirit into herself.

Sweet Angel and Divine’s marriage was said to be a chaste marriage because, Divine says, “God is not married.” Sweet Angel told Newsday in 2005, “When Father married me, he symbolically married everyone else. It’s not a personal marriage. It’s Christ married to his church.”

Father Divine’s Follower Led Mass Suicide - Jim Jones, a follower of Divine’s movement, wanted to be Divine's successor once Divine had passed. Divine refused and Mother Divine became the new leader. In 1971, however, Jones attempted to convince the movement that he was Father Divine reincarnated. Jones branched off to create a new movement, the People's Temple.

In November 1978, Jones led 909 of his members to suicide by a poisonous concoction of cyanide, sedatives and a powered fruit juice. Armed guards surrounded the event ensuring the suicides took place. The event in Jonestown, Guyana, became the largest mass suicide in modern history.

THEN AND NOW: Divine Lorraine Hotel

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