Saturday, September 3, 2011

Divine Intervention

While Philadelphia is synonomous with Independence Hall and the Betsy Ross House, to many Philadelphians, the Divine Lorraine is perhaps our most iconic representation of what defines Philadelphia. It's macabre arches and balconies are representative of our eclectic architectural portfolio. Its mysterious history could not be a more perfect metaphor for Philadelphia's post-Colonial past. And unfortunately, its neglected state is harshly representative of City Hall's patented bureaucracy and neglect.

Ten years ago this building stood perfectly preserved. Even after being abandoned by the Peace Mission, it was home to a lone caretaker, its upper levels empty yet respected. In a city covered in graffiti and broken windows, a silent respect left this neighborhood landmark completely untouched.

Today it still sits vacant, but after a developer ripped out its soul and walked away, he took with him a sole source of pride for a struggling neighborhood and city. Concrete blocks seal the ground floor. Upper floors remain completely devoid of windows, open to the elements. Like a desanctified church, God is gone and the vandals have moved in.

With only muddy prospects in its future, the Divine Lorraine stands as a painful reminder of mismanagement and a lack of respect on the part of City Councilmembers against those they are elected to service.

The sad truth is that those representing Philadelphia have an absent connection with Philadelphians and what it means to be one. This is evident in the fact that they - one in particular - have done nothing to save a building as analogous with Philadelphia as the Liberty Bell.

One thing I have always loved about this city is our citizens' interest in our own history. New Yorkers and Washingtonians rarely know little if anything about their architectural, commercial, and industrial pasts. But in Philadelphia, you not only find people who know of buildings like the Divine Lorraine, but they will tell who built it, when it was built, and how it was used.

Our proud history has taught even the youngest and most civilian of history buffs where Broad Street Station stood, where the Chinese Wall ran, and what Dock Street once looked like. Why aren't those who love Philadelphia for its gritty corners and speckled past running this town? And why are we allowing the institution that behaves as though they despise our beloved city to run it into the ground?

1 comment:

  1. This is an interesting post. I have to say tough that it's unfair to chastise the developer here. The developer was ready to take a chance, but then there was a councilman there with his hand out with no regard of the ramifications of his actions. From what I understand, Daryl Clarke was totally idiotic and shows why you have to elect smart people to council.

    Without getting on too much of a rant, the best way to help low income individuals in a city is to rebuild the tax base so that ancillary unskilled jobs are made available. The Divine Lorraine needs to be remade for individuals who pay taxes so we can finally invert out bizarre tax system as to encourage growth and make opportunity available. Then we will finally be able to accelerate and expand the renaissance that we have seen.