Maryland & Philadelphia - Day 5. (Continued from here.)

October 2009.

Waking up the next day, I wanted to walk the grounds of the famous Byberry (Hospital for the Insane); since we stayed at a motel within walking distance. It was tempting to spend an additional hour in bed, but when would I ever be here again? It was the last day of the trip anyhow...

Leaving the lands dominated by motels and car dealerships, I headed some arbitrary direction towards the 4 lane Roosevelt Boulevard. I eventually reached the grounds of Byberry, denoted with brick columns between sections of fence now guarding absolutely nothing. There may have been some no trespassing signs, but I didn't see one sign of human activity - I strolled right past a trailer and another chain link fence onto the grounds.

One building still remains across the road, but it is only 1 of 30 which stood on this side of Roosevelt Boulevard. These buildings were demolished in 2006, so there has been time for trees and foliage to overgrow, although you can still easily walk the roads. A little imagination allows you to look around and postulate where the buildings were, but I had never been to Byberry while it was standing, so it was all imagination.

The only other thing I noticed was that many of the prominent Philadelphia graffiti tags could be found on curbs, trees and the brick columns throughout the property.

I know that Byberry meant a lot to a lot of people, so I'm not going to continue rambling about walking around a former building site.

I crossed back over the Boulevard and headed back.

Back at the motel, Chad & UJ were telling me about the neighbouring room having some really loud morning sex; although I was confused because they found it downright hilarious. Not understanding what was so funny, I eventually learned it was because of how the woman was verbally abusing the guy. Nice!

The excitement of neighbour sex behind them, we packed up the car for the last time and went up the road to meet our friend Madman at the Wawa.

I had one last thing to pack as I picked up some 40s the night before, remembering how Chad & I went into the liquor store and were confused by the strange rule informing us of what we could purchase. It was something along the line of "two 40s + one 12 pack" or "three 24oz. cans, 12 beers and one 40" or this, or that; for about 9 different elaborate combinations. It took me a good five minutes to make sense of the sign and decide which beer combination I wanted.

Anyway, I had never met Madman before, so it was good to get to the Wawa and introduce myself. He had driven 2 hours just to hang out with us this morning, so we had to appreciate that.

We filled up on Wawa breakfast and it was deep into Philadelphia and to the Divine Lorraine.

(^I realize it's overexposed, I want you to see the details of the front)

The Divine Lorraine was designed by Willis G. Hale; and while I'm not exactly an expert on Philadelphia architecture, this Willis G. Hale seems to have an impressive number of buildings, many of which are quite attractive. Looking at this impressive resume, where he designed 115 Philadelphia buildings, plus looking at one of his structures standing today ( St. Stephen Church (1884)); suddenly I'm a fan of this Willis G. Hale. Unfortunately, some of his fellow architects found him to build buildings which didn't fit in with other buildings, and Hale has never really been recognized as an architect of note, whose buildings should be preserved.

His 1883 'Lorraine Apartment House' also still stands thankfully. Not only an attractive building, the Lorraine was also historically important in terms of architecture. Constructed around the time of the Industrial Revolution, many of Philadelphia's buildings were under 4 stories at the time, because who would want to walk up more than 4 flights of stairs a day? The Industrial Revolution brought about elevators and better building materials - making ideas like a 10 story apartment building reasonable.

The Lorraine is situated in North Philadelphia, a place where in the 1880s, was home to many newly rich people, products of the industrial revolution. Back in those times it wasn't the same as today; apartments were a classy place for a well off person to live. These new Lorraine apartments had impressive amenities such as electricity and a central cleaning staff - eliminating a renter's need for private servants; plus a central kitchen - meaning that your daily meals were brought to your rooms, instead of you having to cook them yourself.

Into the 1930s and 1940s, the area changed to commercial and the Lorraine Apartments to a luxury hotel. The building was purchased by Father Divine in 1948 and the name was changed to the Divine Lorraine Hotel. Father Divine had neon roof letters installed and opened the hotel to all races - prior to this classes of hotels were segregated, but Father Divine brought Philadelphia's first racially integrated hotel.

Father Divine would leave this world in 1966 and his followers would continue running the hotel until the year 2000, when the building was sold. It passed between a few hands, before coming to its current Dutch owners; who came and stripped the building for renovation, but haven't expressed any interest or plans since.

That failed renovation means that not much of interest remains inside the Divine Lorraine. The above picture is taken on the first floor, and while some plaster details remain, the only physical item of note is the 'Divine Lorraine' safe.

The basement is empty as well, except for these very interesting and unique staircases.

There is a matching staircase just to the left of the above stair set.

....aaaaaaaaaand the rest of the floors are stripped down to their bare bones.

That's alright though, you can call me shallow, but the beauty of DL is all in the exterior.

I've heard a few people look at her and think DL belongs in Spain or Portugal, as it is typically not something you would envision when thinking about Philadelphia.

As mentioned, there's not much to see on the inside, so we mostly acted out one of those bad English comedy skits, where the four of us went up & down stairs, out on balconies, saw 1 of the others, went back inside, popped out onto another balcony, saw another person, so on and so forth.

We all stopped and spent extra time admiring the 9th floor sky bridge.

I know the above shot is overexposed, but look at how pretty all of the details are! She needed to be overexposed.

I believe I was last to reach the hole leading to the roof and I found the others standing around.

After a few moments, it was through that hole and I was washed below a wave of sudden nervousness. As you can see above, my friend Madman is being very careful while climbing. Away from the flat portion you see by the roof letters, the rest of the roof is peaked & sharply angled, the angles leading 8 stories down to the courtyard or 10 stories to ground.

Thankfully the roof is gritty, but you still aren't that comfortable up there, thinking about how one mistake will lead to you either a 8 or 10 story free fall.

Looking away from downtown.

I suppose here is a good time to inform you that 'chilling by roof letters' has long been on my bucket list; and long been something I've actively pursued and fantasized about. I only know of 1 set (of roof letters) which people have reached in Detroit, but I personally haven't had the chance. Heck, my obsession has gone so far that I've contemplated somehow getting a ladder to Ypsilanti, Michigan to climb atop this old powerhouse to their set.

Needless to say, my eyes were wide as silver dollars the first time I saw the Divine Lorraine.

And when I heard it was accessible for my second visit to Philadelphia? You know it was on!

Therefore, my first course of action was to traverse those damn roof slants over to the flat area behind the roof letters and in front of the skyline.

I had finally reached a roof with letters still atop. It was easily a first 10 goal, meaning that if you quizzed me, I would have probably mentioned roof letters during the first 10 goals.

I actually climbed out on the letter supports a little, we posed for a group shot, then lazed about the roof for a bit. Where it was actually hot in Washington, it was perfect in Philadelphia - even being directly under the sun with no shade, it was that perfect temperature where you wanted to stay up there all day.

Unfortunately we couldn't. We knew we probably shouldn't push our luck, so after a fair amount of time, we carefully made our way back across the roof and back into the building.

As you can see above, I weighed the option of the fire escape for a split second; but eventually returned to my wall hole.

Now this was what I was talking about! We were up (fairly) early, checking out something that was top 10 and which didn't disappoint; getting things done!

That success wouldn't last though.

We had the option of going with Madman back to his territory and seeing something that was a sure thing, but instead decided to give this place in Maryland a third shot - thinking maybe that we should because Maryland is typically further away? I don't really remember why we decided against New York State...

Anyway, the abandoned buildings where we were yelled at from the tree line & where we ran into workers maintaining a trailway; we would be thwarted one last time - we parked the car, walked the trail, things were going well...whennnnn...boom! We see a cop car waiting at the tree line!

Thankfully we noticed the cop car before he noticed us, so we simply halted and went back to the car; almost amused at how much we were failing at trying to enter this one place. The funniest part may have been how this place had been a total whore for 5 years - everyone was getting the hell were we having such trouble?

We drove to another place in Maryland and while Maryland may not be that big of state, time was being consumed. By the time we got there, we drove around our target for a bit before parking, discussing, deciding we had enough time, walking, climbing through thorn bushes, discussing some more, realizing we were being far too obvious, realizing it was actually too late, before finally accepting defeat.

We had a 10 hour drive ahead of us, so how much time would we really have here? We weren't being very stealthy, so was the risk worth the 2 hours of building we would get?

It's hard for me to sit here now and not kick myself for retreating from those buildings, but at the time, in Northern Maryland, we decided to accept defeat and get on our way.

Our drive home was mostly from east to west while in Maryland, including the lovely Western Maryland which I discovered in day 1 - the only unfortunate thing being that darkness was falling as we went from Central to Western Maryland, to the point where it was dark (see above picture) when Chad needed to stop for a dart near the Maryland - West Virginia state line.

Speaking of West Virginia, UJ was shocked that I had never had IHOP, so we decided to stop for IHOP in West Virginia; mostly because of the notoriety of eating in West Virginia & also because I haven't done much in West Virginia during my travels. Anyway, the IHOP was unbelievably tasty, even though the portion sizes were downright ridiculous - I think I ate 30% of my meal.

We also heard the most authentic 'yee hawwwwwww!' from far off, while waiting for Chad to unlock the car upon departure.

Bump West Virginia!

Even though we had to be back in Michigan by morning, Chad & UJ still wanted some adventure and asked if we would be going anywhere near state highpoints. I knew we would be somewhat close to Maryland's highpoint, but it involves a hike and it was nighttime - so I shut that down.

West Virginia's too far south and Pennsylvania's too far out of the way, so I was only left with Ohio. I guessed it was about an hour out of our way, but Chad & UJ were up for it!

Off the highway, dodging deer and driving through some truly sleepy Ohioan villages; in the end we reached Bellefontaine, OH and Ohio's state highpoint: Campbell Hill! My fifth state highpoint!

Middle of the night, with dewey grass and unprepared for the cold - we didn't stay atop Ohio for long.

I actually brought my tripod and snapped a 15 or 30 second exposure shot, but other than that and 1 last group shot for the trip, it was a short visit.

I was half asleep, but I still remember the experience with joy.

Bye bye Campbell Hill!

Once back in the car, I wasn't awake for long before succumbing to slumber. Chad was a powerhouse and got us home, so I appreciate that.

Overall, the trip had a fair amount of giving up, but I still saw: 2 new states, the #1 city I wanted to see (Baltimore), 2 out of the top 10 buildings I wanted to see, 2 new state highpoints, 5 days of road tripping and all with 2 of my favourite people to travel with.

I may kick myself for not pushing it further with some of those buildings, but that wont be what I remember when I look back at this trip anyhow.


1 - The Story of Byberry 1906-2006 - Maps

2 - Wikipedia - Campbell Hill (Ohio)

3 - PhillyHistory - The Divine Lorraine Hotel


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