Does anyone remember Father Devine - a flamboyant man of the lord
- and the Devine Hotel at the intersection of High Street and Clinton
Ave? The hotel is still standing and apparently still operating
and has the DEVINE HOTEL sign on top.
I can remember hearing that he was a "Holy Roller" and
had a harem of women in the hotel. I'm sure he did some good for
his community in his day but there are a lot of stories around about
Mary Ray Beggio:
What wonderful memories you bring back. I would ride the bus up
Clinton Ave and always look for Father Devine and one day there
he was, going into the hotel with four beautiful black ladies. He
was always in the papers, you might find some stories in an old
issue from the 50's.
I believe the hotel was originally the Hotel Riviera, and, after
Father Divine bought it, it was called the Divine Hotel Riviera.
the father was anti sex, women on one floor, men on the other.
i think he owned the belmont hotel, the women were angels we had
a cab stand there and angels could not sit with men.
You are right - his women were called "Angels."
I knew him well, attendended some dinners he wanted to have people
not to know him to be a racisit so he hired me for awhile, i was
his private driver for a year he did not like black drivers, later
i found out that he told all that i was a arc angel sent from above
Do you know of any Mansion that Father Divine bought in the late
1950's? Like 66 South Mountain ave in Upper Montclair.
Jule, about Father Divine. In the late 1920s we lived on Prince
St. Our neighbor, next door in a small store, was a "Holy Roller
" church. Plenty of, moving, shaking and LOUD SINGING. A few
doors down the street was the "original" [?] store front
"soup kitchen" [on Prince between Montgomery and W. Kinney]
run by Father Divine. This was during the "depression"
days, late 20's early 30's and conditions were very rough. Our family
was managing, but we saw many families, in need and welcomed there.
Long before the Riviera Hotel became "Divine " this seemed
to be his place. Everybody that was in need of a meal was welcome.
If you had a nickel, that's what it would cost. If no money, "come
in anyway". Those were NOT "the good old days" but
there was some help available. For many years after, and at the
Riviera there were stories circulating. some positive, some not
so . "I only know what I read in the papers" End of story
Don't know of that building but I do know he had a heck of a lot
of buildings all over - in this state and others. I know he had
places in Perth Amboy, Jersey City, Harlem, Sayville Long Island,
and else where.
His homes were called "Heaven" and he was called "God."
On the walls of his various Heavens here and in other cities hung
banners which read: FATHER DEVINE IS GOD ALMIGHTY.
He was born in the late 1880's somewhere in either Georgia, Florida,
or Virginia. His name was George Baker and he earned an honest living
as a gardner. Twenty years later, by a process of multiple birth's
he became The Messenger and then Major J. Devine. He was born a
forth and then a fifth time and then became Rev. J. Devine. Then
almost immediately afterward he became Father Devine (God) and remained
God ever since. When he was in Harlem his disciples stretched a
streamer of balck and gold silk across the throne of Heaven, the
headquarters of the cult, on 115th Street, with these words: FATHER
DEVINE IS DEAN OF THE UNIVRSE.
He called his followers "Angels" after they assigned
all of their property to him, and handed over all the money they
earned, and took a new name.
He claimed that upon his death he would ascent to Heaven in a airplane.
He died of old age - either 88 or 4,000 - in 1965 leaving an estate
of around $10 million. Not bad for a humble gardner turned God.
Hello Seymour. Thanks for the info regarding the Prince Street soup
kitchen. As I said in my opening few lines "I'm sure he did
some good for his community in his day" and here you confirm
it. Thanks. I'm sure that he did a lot more good than he is credited
for. When anyone is "flamboyant" nine out of ten times
only the negative shows up and the other good stuff is swept under
the rug. I'm sure this happened to him many times.
Hello again. Decided to check my Encylopedia Britannica to see what
they might have on Father Devine. Here it is:
"Born 1877?, Hutchinson's Island, near Savannah, GA. Died
Sept 10, 1965 in Philadelphia. Also called J. Devine; byname of
George Baker; American religious leader who in 1919 founded the
Peace Mission movement. Began preaching in Baltimore where he became
known as "The Messenger." After briefly returning to GA
he moved to New York City in 1915. He adopted the name Major J.
Devine (later Divine) shortly thereafter and in 1919 established
his first "heaven" or community dwelling, in Sayville,LI.
His predomintly black following expanded rapidly in the 1930's and
40's, and many more "heavens" were opened in distant cities.
By the 1960's the orgainzation owned more than $10 million in property.
Father Devine was regarded by his followers as God, and he did not
permit them to smoke, drink liquor, or use cosmetics. The movement
declined after his death."
I'm sure I remember this mansion being looked at or sold to Father
Devine. Remember my father and friends talking about it. Friends
of my father and mother owned the mansion in the 1950's. They bought
it with the intention of making into a "High Class" Rooming
House...the area was not zoned for it. The mansion had 30 rooms.
These people sold it and bought another large home. I thought it
was Father Devine that bought it. It still there. I have taken rides
up there and look at it. Lots of memories in that BIG HOUSE.
If my memory serves me right, I think Father Devine was contemplating
buying Olympic Park. It never materialized. It may have been related
to Father Devine's death in 1965 which was also the year that Olympic