Mid-Century Philly: Broad, Ridge, Fairmount and the Divine Lorraine, 1954

Last week PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey reported that redevelopment plans for the Divine Lorraine at last have secured all of the necessary financing, thanks to a loan and grant from the Redevelopment Authority. That news found me looking back at what the Divine Lorraine, and for that matter the intersection of Broad Street at Fairmount and Ridge avenues, looked like when this stretch of North Broad was a whole lot stronger.

As part of our occasional Mid-Century Philly photo series, here’s a selection of stills from the Free Library’s Parker and Mullikin collection, showing this area in May of 1954. 

Broad and Fairmount, East:

Here we see the Divine Lorraine in full swing as a hotel and hub for the International Peace Movement founded by Father Divine. The banner heralds the anniversary of Father Divine. That date refers to the literal wedding anniversary to his second wife, Edna Rose Ritchings (Mother Divine), an annual celebration observed by the International Peace Mission Movement.

The Salvation Army is still just across the street from the Divine Lorraine, but this is what preceded it.

May 12, 1954: Salvation Army Service Center at northwest corner of Broad and Fairmount | Parker and Mullikin, Free Library of Philadelphia Print and Picture Collection
(Parker and Mullikin, Free Library of Philadelphia Print and Picture Collection )

Broad and Fairmount, West:

On the northwest corner the Northwestern National Bank building still stands proud – now a PNC branch and offices for People For People. But in these photos we can see layers that have since been peeled back: modifications to bring this old bank into mid-century modernity, like a drive through and neon signage. Just to the north of the bank on North Broad is the former Central Presbyterian Church, now Greater Exodus Baptist Church.

Fairmount Avenue at Ridge Avenue:

Spillover from North Broad Street’s Auto row extended onto Fairmount Avenue here, a commercial landscape dotted with repair shops, parts suppliers, and car sales. Several of these buildings are now used by Project HOME. In the image showing the north side of Fairmount and Ridge Avenue, many of these buildings stand where the new JBJ Soul Homes were recently built.

Parker and Mullikin photographs used under agreement with Free Library of Philadelphia Print and Picture Collection.

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