Inside a Graduate Hospital Church-Turned-Boutique Hotel

Check out the Deacon, Philly’s new, hip Airbnb-style hotel and event space.

A bedroom at The Deacon hotel. Photograph by Devin Campbell

You could say the Deacon began with a shoe. A ceramic Air Jordan 11, to be exact. After spotting the quirky bit of decor at Shannon Maldonado’s pop-up for her boutique, Yowie, Everett Abitbol purchased the entire run-through — and kept in touch with Maldonado.

A South Philly-based taxi-fleet owner who dabbles in rental properties, Abitbol was inspired by a trip to San Francisco, where his group booked an entire hotel for a wedding. “There was a joy we got out of having a space all to ourselves,” he says, adding that there aren’t many similar options in Philly.

Partnering with developer Bill Vessal, Abitbol found his spot in the vacant First African Baptist Church. They created a 3,000-square-foot common area surrounded by two floors of bedrooms and brought Maldonado in for the interior design. She blended offbeat art (a floor-to-ceiling photo of Dr. J) with touches from local shops (greenery from Stump Plants; a vinyl collection by Repo Records), and the Deacon opened in April as an Airbnb-style space. (There’s no concierge or nightly turn-down service.) It can be booked all at once for up to 24 overnighters, for events of up to 175 , or one room at a time, with a shared common space.

“There’s a level of refinement, but with a mix of high and low items. We wanted to make it feel warm without filling it up with too much stuff.” — Shannon Maldonado, designer


Six of the eight rooms boast original stained-glass windows. Bedroom 8, pictured here, features a playful accent wall (“Inspired Lilac” by Sherwin-Williams) and original archways trimmed in gold paint. Local builder Tim Gleeson, who built out all of Yowie’s display fixtures, created the floating desk.

Living Space

deacon hotel

A bedroom at The Deacon hotel. Photograph by Heidi’s Bridge

The main gathering space is grounded by couches from Article and Blu Dot. (The House of DeBoer sneaker vase that started it all sits atop a Hem coffee table.) Tom Dixon light fixtures and Muuto bar stools round out the kitchen, which sits where the church organ once did.


deacon hotel

The exterior of The Deacon hotel and event space. Photograph by Devin Campbell

Designed by the once-prolific Philly architecture firm of Watson & Huckel and built in 1906, the limestone Gothic Revival church was placed on the city’s register of historic places — and thereby saved from demolition — in 2016.

Work and Dining Space

deacon hotel

A work and dining space at The Deacon hotel. Photograph by Carina Romano/Love Me Do Photography

Across from the main entry, guests can pull up to work or eat at the Hay Copenhague table. The moody teal-hued side area is brightened by whimsical chandeliers from Arch Street Lighting and vintage prints from Spring Garden’s Dane Fine Art.

The Deacon is located at 1600 Christian Street. 

Published as “Holy Ground” in the September 2019 issue of Philadelphia magazine.