"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Where & When: Game 40

Hello again, welcome to the middle of the week with Where & When! So now that you’re here, you probably need to catch your breath for a minute before you once again dive into the storm and try to navigate your way around the city of old. Or cities; that happens sometimes. Like a warm day in a particularly nasty winter, but I’m not saying anything you don’t already know…

Where & When Game 40

A friend of mine posted a somewhat similar picture of this building recently and I was instantly captivated by the design.  It sort of reminded me of a combination of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and Pig Style Alley in the movie Kung Fu Hustle; there are certainly more European flourishes in this design than Asian, but that’s not to say those comparisons are not relevant to this building in some way. I’m sure some intrepid design master will recognize it’s influences and find it somewhere, and that person will uncover very interesting history concerning this building.  That’s what I’d like for the first person to discover the Where and the When of this challenge to lay out: where is this building located, when was it built and what was it called when completed? For a bonus question, tell us how this building is relevant to this particular month and what has become of it? There’s a lot to tell about this building; I don’t expect you to write an essay about it (but you’re welcome to spare me the time and effort at least for this one), but it is a good bonus question and therefore deserves a special incentive. The one with the answers to the first two questions will get a claret glass of Bordeaux, while the rest of us will guzzle a schooner of sarsaparilla. And the bonus? How about some miso homefries? No? Okay, a ribeye medium well might seal the deal.  Take your pick; it’s open to vegans and vegetarians as well.

I do hope you find the answers as they are quite interesting.  By the way, the answers are relevant to the date; the name had changed over time and that in turn is relevant to the bonus, so you have to be precise according to the photo, which was likely taken when the building was just completed. I’ll check back during the afternoon and see what you’ve come up with or drop some clues if need be.  Have fun, and no peeking at the photo credit!

[Photo Credit: City of Beautiful Buildings]


1 rbj   ~  Feb 19, 2014 10:17 am

Wow. Where to begin? Never have seen this building before. There are telephone/electric wires, and trolley tracks, but not any automobiles, so I'm guessing turn of the last century. Hotel or apartment building.

A real stumper.

2 RIYank   ~  Feb 19, 2014 10:19 am

I don't know. This could be a tough one.
I see what you mean about the Arc de Triomphe -- it doesn't really have that architectural style, but it is reminiscent of fin de siecle Paris.
I think it must be late nineteenth century, both by the style and the other elements of the photo.

I don't know what to try in Google. And I can't figure out where it could be -- the tenements surrounding seem to rule out Fifth Avenue, which is what I would otherwise have guessed (because that's where you'd expect to find a really ostentatious apartment building in the 1890s).

3 RIYank   ~  Feb 19, 2014 10:19 am

Hah, those are remarkably similar reactions!

4 RIYank   ~  Feb 19, 2014 10:25 am

Yeah, it's certainly 1800s. The exposure is verrrrry long. If you look closely, you can see 'ghost' images -- a man walking, a wagon pulled by horses. Moving things that were in the pic for part of its exposure. Even the more-or-less stationery men outside the front door are a little blurry.

On second look, those aren't tenements in the background, just stores. Too bad we can't see what stores they are.

Damn, I think this is the hardest one yet. (Sorry I missed the last two, by the way -- I was traveling.)

5 TheGreenMan   ~  Feb 19, 2014 10:39 am

I got nothing.

Was thinking it might be on Broadway. Looks like theaters off to the right, but I'm getting nothing on any searches I've tried. Interesting building, though.

6 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 19, 2014 11:54 am

Read my intro again, guys...

7 RIYank   ~  Feb 19, 2014 12:00 pm

Oh, hm. I think I picked up one of the clues. Hm, not sure how to use it.

Also, it suddenly struck me that the building has an abstract similarity to Notre Dame. (The one in Paris, not the one in South Bend.) Is that in any way relevant? Does it have some Romanesque or Neo-Gothic connection?

8 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 19, 2014 12:13 pm

Certainly Neo-Gothic, but that's not the connection I'm going for. Yes, it is out of town. I'll be fair and say that you can get there on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor Acela express trains.

9 rbj   ~  Feb 19, 2014 12:19 pm

[8] Ah, out of town. I've been doing variations of beaux-art double ared buildings in New York to no avail.

10 rbj   ~  Feb 19, 2014 12:21 pm

ared = arched

11 RIYank   ~  Feb 19, 2014 12:46 pm

Oh, I see -- you did give a small clue that it might be out of town.

Ahhhhh. Now I have an idea...

12 RIYank   ~  Feb 19, 2014 12:56 pm

I feel pretty confident I'm on the right track now, but I haven't found the building yet.

13 RIYank   ~  Feb 19, 2014 1:44 pm

It's in Philadelphia, as I suspected. North Philadelphia, to be precise, on the corner of Broad and Fairmont. It was built in 1892 (one site says completed in 1894 and one suggests earlier, but three say 1892 so I'll go with that). And it was then called Lorraine Apartments.

More in a moment.

14 RIYank   ~  Feb 19, 2014 1:51 pm

For the bonus:
the building was purchased by one Father Divine, and re-opened as the Divine Lorraine Hotel, the first fully integrated hotel in America. The Reverend Major Jealous Divine(!) was founder of the Universal Peace Mission Movement, and although he had some unpleasant and strict rules he was color blind (in the ethical sense).
So that's the relevance to African American History Month.

The Peace Mission sold it in 2000, and it was slated to be converted back into luxury apartments, but the re-development stalled and now it's boarded up and uglified, which seems to happen with depressing regularity to the beauties Will posts for us to investigate.

I'll take the ribeye, Will, and the glass of claret. Belth can chew on the miso fries.

Oh, and I'll give my research story shortly.

15 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 19, 2014 1:55 pm

[14] Excellent work!

16 RIYank   ~  Feb 19, 2014 1:56 pm

I thought the clue to the effect that the building is relevant to this date (and month, Will said) probably meant it has to do with African American History Month.

Once Will clued us in that the picture is from another city, I thought maybe Philadelphia – the City of Brotherly Love. It’s certainly Amtrak-accessible, and since I felt pretty sure it wasn’t in Boston or Providence, it seemed like the main choices were down to Baltimore and Philly. (Will wouldn’t say you could get there by Amtrak if it were in Jersey or Connecticut.)

But that didn’t do the trick. Combining ‘gothic revival’ or ‘victorian’ or ‘romanesque’ with ‘Philadelphia’ got me nowhere on Google, and adding in “black history month” or “African-American history month” didn’t help either.

I’ve spent enough time in Philadelphia to guess the Rittenhouse Square was the likely location for an early apartment house for the fashionably rich… but that was wrong too.

Finally, FINALLY, I ran into a little luck. I took a look at the National Registry of Historic Places (since Will implied that the building is still around and that it has historical significance), and right on their front page they had a link for African American History Month, to this page. And that got me here.

17 RIYank   ~  Feb 19, 2014 2:00 pm

Oh, cool -- did you okay my comment, Will? Or Alex dropped in. Thanks!

18 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 19, 2014 2:06 pm

I cleaned it up for you, no big. Great work once again, good intuition. Yeah, it seems like my choices often do have tragic epilogues, unfortunately. But one should certainly appreciate the appeal these buildings had in their heyday and how there is more of an effort to preserve these types of buildings for future generations, either as historic landmarks or for re-purposing. History will repeat itself if we do not pay attention to it, and very often that's a bad thing.

19 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 19, 2014 2:17 pm

[16] Well, I could've meant Dee Cee, too >;)

20 rbj   ~  Feb 19, 2014 2:31 pm

Dang, I had no luck with this one. Tried Boston, Philly and Baltimore.

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver