Mr. Mayor, Seal This Building


“Someone is trying to set this joint on fire.” Photo: Jeff Weisberg

There was a small fire at the former Divine Lorrraine Hotel last night and we can’t say we’re surprised–people have been entering the building with ease for the last two to three months, maybe more.

The city told us a month ago that they are monitoring the buildings on a daily basis, but this seems unlikely. There is a big hole in the fence and not one but two ladders up to an open window in the old laundry building, through which the main building can be accessed. As if these indications weren’t obvious enough, someone painted the hand of a monster with pink fingernails reaching down from the roof of the laundry building that’s awfully hard to miss.

Now it’s true that keeping the Divine Lorraine sealed shouldn’t be the City’s responsibility, since the building is still owned by local developer Michael Treacy and investors from Michigan and the Netherlands. But given the owners’ seeming disinterest in keeping people out, the City needs to step in, as it did last year when filled in the lower windows with concrete blocks.

The Divine Lorraine has become a powerful symbol of beauty , decay, and possible rebirth in Philadelphia. Many people care about its fate, and there is the chance that beyond someone starting a fire to keep warm (and it was unseasonably warm yesterday) that someone may be trying to burn it down on purpose.

The Nutter administration has properly called attention to the importance of rehabilitating this building, which is both a historic landmark, and a critical part of revitalizing North Broad Street. But before anything else, they must secure the building, which is truly an everyday job, even with the ground-floor windows sealed with concrete block. The devil is in the details, and if the city isn’t more diligent, the Divine Lorraine could burn again–with far more catastrophic consequences.

Peter Woodall is the co-editor of Hidden City Daily. He is a graduate of the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, and a former newspaper reporter with the Biloxi Sun Herald and the Sacramento Bee. He worked as a producer for Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane and wrote a column about neighborhood bars for


  1. I couldn’t agree more that this building is teetering between a smoldering pile of rubble and a beautiful restoration project. The Mayor explicitly included the DL into the 2nd term priority projects, but it may never get to that if vandals have a chance to destroy it. The company that owned (still owns it) supposedly had a paid guard that was on site, and that seemed to keep the people out. Not sure if that is still Lorraine Hotel LP. The city should immediately hold the property owners responsible for this blight and, at a minimum, keep it secured for the time being.

  2. Great investigative work! I couldn’t imagine there would ever be a HOLE IN THE FENCE of an abandoned building!!

    • Thanks for calling attention to this. Here’s to hoping something great comes out of the DL.

      To the poster – if you don’t like it, no need to comment. Just move on…


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