Most Philadelphians recognize the Divine Lorraine Hotel. The monumental building on the corner of Broad and Fairmount in North Philadelphia no longer looks like it does in the photograph above. It still sports the rooftop signs declaring its name to all travelers heading north and south on Broad St, but the windows are now either missing or covered over with plywood, graffiti marks exterior and interior walls, and the years of random fires and disuse leave it looking like many another urbex destination. The building which has stood unused since 1999 is most known for being the first hotel in United States to be racially integrated and has one of those fancy blue historical markers on the sidewalk in front of it. Though it looks like this these days, there are more than a few people with designs on what to do with this extraordinary structure.
Ownership of the Divine Lorraine Hotel has changed hands a few times since it was first put up for sale and it currently is owned by developer Eric Blumenfeld who plans to turn it into – what else? – an apartment complex and restaurant, even though there is no noticeable movement forward on these plans. Not interested in seeing this Philadelphia landmark become just another gentrification story Philadelphia native Caryn Kunkle has the bold idea to turn it into a massive arts space in the form of her brainchild, the Philadelphia Interactive Museum of Contemporary Art. Well aware of the practical hindrances that such a project would entail – she doesn’t even own the building – her vision, tenacity and intention are nonetheless inspiring. I only heard about this idea today reading Philadelphia Weekly’s cover story on Ms Kunkle but the idea was so compelling that I immediately signed Ms Kunkle’s petition calling for the city of Philadelphia to declare eminent domain on the property and I urge you to do the same thing.
Yes, the idea is a long-shot but if enough people get behind a petition like this there is a good chance that there will be more money/legislative/community backing for the project in the future. Whether you are a Philadelphian who loves art/a Philadelphian who wants to see a new venue for art and creative non-profits/an art lover anywhere, please click on this link and sign the petition. It only takes a few seconds.
Read the Philly Weekly article here or to hear the idea straight from Caryn Kunkle, check out the video below: