Rediscovering Jewish Infrastructure

Rediscovering Jewish Infrastructure: 2018 Update on United States Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century Synagogues

by Mark W. Gordon

This article – the third in a series – will document buildings which were originally erected as synagogues in the United States in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and are still standing today.  Calling attention to these structures focuses on the importance of maintaining and preserving them, either as houses of worship or alternative uses.

Newport, RI

Figure 1. Jeshuat Israel’s Touro Synagogue of Newport, RI was built from 1759 to 1763 in the Georgian style. One of the oldest extant Jewish houses of worship in the Western Hemisphere, the synagogue was closed during much of the nineteenth century as the local economy declined and the Jewish community dispersed to other cities. It reopened in the 1880s. Photo by Mark W. Gordon.

The first article in this series appeared in American Jewish History in March 1986 (Vol. 75, No. 3). It identified for the first time fifty-two (52) extant eighteenth- and nineteenth-century synagogue buildings in the United States. I located many of these structures by searching downtown districts throughout the country. Touring former Jewish neighborhoods sometimes led to the sudden and exciting discovery of a former synagogue. Architectural styles, along with remnants of Judaic ornamentation (Stars of David, tablets, Hebrew cornerstones, etc.), assisted in identifying and dating the building.

Through additional urban exploring, research and input from American Jewish History readers around the country, the second article in this series, published in the March 1996 American Jewish History (Vol. 84, No. 1) enumerated ninety-six (96) extant purpose-built US eighteenth- and nineteenth-century synagogue structures including the fifty-two (52) noted above.

Architects, historians, urban planners and community members have used this information for a variety of purposes.  For example, many Jewish congregations are proud to worship in the oldest extant synagogues in the country.  By 2018, at least thirty separate Wikipedia entries footnote the March 1996 American Jewish History article, including individual entries for such well-known structures as Touro Synagogue (Newport – fig. 1), Plum Street Synagogue (Cincinnati) and Central Synagogue (NYC).

As of today, the total number of all known pre-1900 synagogue buildings is ninety-seven (97).  This includes twelve additional synagogues discovered in the last twenty-two years, offset by eleven subtractions from demolitions and other factors described below.  Each entry in Table 1 includes the address of the structure, its architectural style, the name of the original congregation, whether the original congregation still uses its building, and if not, the current use.  You may access Table 1 below.

Table 1: Pre-1900 Buildings Erected as Synagogues and Still Standing

View table as full page.

Table 1: Pre-1900 Buildings Erected as Synagogues and Still Standing

Date

City & Address

State

Original Congregation

Current Use

Architecture

1759-63

NEWPORT
85 Touro St. 

RI

Jeshuat Israel (O)
(Touro Synagogue)

Same

Georgian

1840-41

CHARLESTON
86-90 Hasell St.

SC

K.K. Beth Elohim (R)

Same

Greek Revival

1845

BALTIMORE
11 Lloyd St.

MD

Baltimore Hebrew Cong. (R)
(Lloyd Street Synagogue)

Museum

Greek Revival

1849-50

NEW YORK CITY
172 Norfolk St.

NY

Anshe Chesed (R)
(Angel Orensanz Center)

Event venue,
holiday services

Gothic

1853

NEW YORK CITY
8 Clinton St.

NY

Rodeph Sholom (R)

Chasam Sopher (O)

Romanesque

1856

HONESDALE
7th & Court Sts.

PA

Beth Israel (R)

Same

Greek Revival

1860

CINCINNATI
Ruth Lyons Lane

OH

Sherith Israel (O)

Condos

Vernacular

1860-65

NEW ORLEANS
709 Jackson Ave.

LA

Shaarei Tefiloh (R)

Condos

Eclectic

1863

MADISON
Gorham & Butler Sts.*

WI

Shaarai Shomayim (R)

Community center

Romanesque

1865-66

CINCINNATI
8th & Plum Sts.

OH

K.K. B'nai Yeshurun (R)
(Isaac M. Wise Temple)
(Plum Street Synagogue)

Same

Moorish Gothic

1865-67

CUMBERLAND
107 Union St.

MD

B'er Chayim (R)

Same

Greek Revival

1867

LAFAYETTE
17 S. 7th St.

IN

Temple Israel (R)

Church, social services

Romanesque

c. 1868

HUDSON
530 Columbia St.

NY

Ohav Sholem (disbanded)

House

Eclectic

1869-70

QUINCY
427 N. 9th St.

IL

B'nai Sholom (R)

Same

Moorish

1870

GALVESTON
816 22nd St.

TX

B'nai Israel (R)
Re-built c.1890

Masonic temple

Moorish Gothic

1870

TROY
167 3rd St.

NY

Temple Berith Sholom (R)

Same

Romanesque

1870-72

NEW YORK CITY
123 E. 55th St.

NY

Ahavath Chesed (R)
(Central Synagogue)

Same

Moorish

1872

DONALDSONVILLE
301 Railroad Ave.

LA

Bikur Cholim (disbanded)

Hardware store

Vernacular

1875-76

HARTFORD
21 Charter Oak Ave.

CT

Temple Beth Israel (R)
(Charter Oak Cultural Ctr.)

Cultural center

Eclectic

1875-76

WILMINGTON
1 S. 4th St.

NC

Temple of Israel (R)

Same

Moorish

1876

BALTIMORE
27-35 Lloyd St.

MD

Chizuk Amuno (C)

B'nai Israel (O);
museum

Victorian Gothic/
eclectic

1876

NEW YORK CITY
274 Keap St.

NY

Beth Elohim (R)

Hebrew school

Victorian Gothic

1876

WASHINGTON
3rd & G Sts., N.W.*

DC

Adas Israel (C)

Pending second move

Romanesque

1876-78

SAVANNAH
20 Gordon St.

GA

Mickve Israel (R)

Same

Gothic

1877

OWENSBORO
429 Daviess St.

KY

Temple Adath Israel (R)

Same

Moorish Gothic

1881

GRAND RAPIDS
72 Ransom Ave. NE

MI

Temple Emanuel (R)

Anti-abortion organization

Vernacular as modified

1882

BROWNSVILLE
171 N. Washington Ave.

TN

Adas Israel (R)

Same

Gothic

1882

CHARLOTTESVILLE
301 E. Jefferson St.*

VA

Beth Israel (R)

Same

Victorian Gothic

1882

DENVER
24th & Curtis Sts.

CO

Temple Emanuel (R)

Incubator offices

Victorian

1883

HOBOKEN
637 Garden St.

NJ

Adas Emuno (R)

Church

Romanesque

1883

JEFFERSON CITY
318 Monroe St.

MO

Temple Beth El (R)

Same

Gothic

1883-84

APPLETON
320 N. Durkee St.

WI

Temple Zion (disbanded)

Organ shop

Victorian Gothic

1884

NEWARK
32 Prince St.

NJ

Oheb Shalom (C)
(Prince Street Synagogue)

Environmental
center

Moorish

1884

LEADVILLE
201 W. 4th St.

CO

Temple Israel (disbanded)

Museum

Victorian Gothic

1884-85

BOSTON
Columbus & Northampton

MA

Temple Israel (R)

Church

Victorian Romanesque

1885

BURLINGTON
168 Archibald St.

VT

Ohavi Zedek (C)

Ahavath Gerim (O)

Gothic

1885-86

TRAVERSE CITY
311 Beth El Way

MI

Beth El (R)

Beth Shalom

Vernacular

1886

GOLDSBORO
314 N. James St.

NC

Oheb Sholom (R)

Same; food pantry in rear

Romanesque

1886

PHILADELPHIA
7th St. & C.B. Moore Ave.

PA

Adath Jeshurun (C)

Church

Moorish

1886

ROCHESTER
30 Leopold St.

NY

Beth Israel (C)
(Leopold Street Shul)

Black Hebrew cong.

Romanesque/eclectic

1886-87

NEW YORK CITY
12 Eldridge St.

NY

Khal Adas Jeshurun (O)
(merged w/Anshe Lubz)

Same, museum

Moorish

1887-89

ALBANY
Lancaster & S. Swan Sts.

NY

Temple Beth Emeth (R)

Church

Richardsonian
Romanesque

1888

OCALA
729 NE 2nd St.

FL

United Hebrews of Ocala (R)

Church

Eclectic

1888

SAN LEANDRO
642 Dolores Ave.*

CA

Temple Beth Sholom (C)

Same

Vernacular

1888-89

TRINIDAD
407 S. Maple St.

CO

Congregation Aaron (R)

Closed in 2016

Moorish/eclectic

1889

LAFAYETTE
603 Lee Ave.

LA

Rodeph Shalom (R)

Same

Vernacular as modified

1889

ALLIANCE
Gershel & Schiff Aves.

NJ

Tifereth Israel (disbanded)
(Sharis Israel)

Unused

Vernacular

1889

ALPENA
125 White St.

MI

Temple Beth El (R)

Recently closed

Vernacular

1889

BLOOMINGTON
315 N. Prairie St.

IL

Moses Montefiore Temple (R)

Residence

Moorish

1889

LIGONIER
503 S. Main St.

IN

Ahavas Sholom (disbanded)

For sale by public library

Victorian Gothic

1889

SAN DIEGO
Juan & Harney Sts.*

CA

Temple Beth Israel (R)

Community center; museum

Romanesque/eclectic

1889-90

NEW YORK CITY
163 E. 67th St.

NY

Zichron Ephraim (O)
(Park East Synagogue)

Same

Moorish

1889-90

BRUNSWICK
1326 Egmont St.

GA

Beth Tefilloh (R)

Same

Moorish

1890-91

NEWBURGH
119 South St.

NY

Temple Beth Jacob (R)

Church

Eclectic

1890-91

BALTIMORE
1914 Madison Ave.

MD

Baltimore Hebrew Cong. (R)

Church

Eclectic

1890-91

CHICAGO
3301 S. Indiana Ave.

IL

Kehilath Anshe Ma'ariv (R) only exterior walls remain

Church

Chicago School

1890-91

SALT LAKE CITY
249 S. Fourth East

UT

B'nai Israel (C/R)

Interior design office

Romanesque

1890-91

HELENA
515 N. Ewing St.

MT

Temple Emanu-El
(disbanded)

Diocese office

Moorish/eclectic

1891

NEW YORK CITY
199 Victory Blvd.

NY

B'nai Jeshurun (C)

Church

Eclectic

1891-92

HENDERSON
Center & N. Alves Sts.

KY

Adas Israel (disbanded)

Church

Victorian

1891-92

PORT GIBSON
706 Church St.

MS

Temple Gemiluth Chassed (R)

Museum

Moorish/eclectic

1891-92

STATESVILLE
206 N. Kelly St.

NC

Emanuel (C)

Same

Romanesque

1891-92

SCHENECTADY
18 N. College St.

NY

Shaarai Shamayim (R)

Church

Romanesque/eclectic

1892

KINGSTON
50 Abeel St.

NY

Temple Emanu-El (R)

Restaurant

Romanesque/eclectic

1892-93

BALTIMORE
1307 Eutaw Pl.

MD

Oheb Shalom (R)

Masonic temple

Byzantine/eclectic

1893

ANNISTON
1301 Quintard Ave.

AL

Temple Beth-El (R)

Same

Eclectic

1893

BRENHAM
Austin JCC campus *

TX

B'nai Abraham (O)
moved to Austin in 2014-15

Tiferet Israel (O)

Gothic/vernacular

1893-94

CLEVELAND
E. 55th & Central Sts.

OH

Tifereth Israel (R)

Church

Richardsonian Romanesque

1894

CENTERVILLE
E. Terry & S. 15th Sts.

IA

B’nai Israel (disbanded)

Church

Gothic/vernacular

1894

NEW YORK CITY
160 W. 82nd St.

NY

Shaaray Tefila (R)

Church

Moorish/eclectic

1894

ALLENTOWN
625 N. 2nd St.

PA

Agudas Achim (O)

Vacant

Gothic/vernacular

1895

BALTIMORE
1501 McCulloh St.

MD

Chizuk Amuno (C)

Church

Classical/Romanesque

1895

SAN FRANCISCO
1881 Bush St.

CA

Ohabai Shalome (disbanded)
(Bush Street Temple)

Assisted Living

Eclectic

1895

NEW YORK CITY
98 Scholes St.

NY

Ahavath Scholom

Church

Romanesque

1895-96

BOISE
11 N. Latah St.*

ID

Ahavath Beth Israel (R)
moved in 2003

Same

Romanesque/Moorish

1895-96

LANCASTER
508 N. Duke St.

PA

Shaarai Shomayim (R)

Same

Classical/eclectic

1896

BROOKHAVEN
Chickasaw & S. Church

MS

B'nai Shalom

Museum

Eclectic

1896

WOODBINE
614 Washington Ave.

NJ

Woodbine Brotherhood
(disbanded)

Museum

Vernacular

1896

ALTOONA
1433 13th Ave.

PA

Mountain City Hebrew
Reform Cong. (R)

Church

Moorish

1896-97

NEW HAVEN
Orange & Audubon Sts.

CT

Mishkan Israel (R)

Arts center

Eclectic

1896-97

NEW YORK CITY
8 W. 70th St.

NY

Shearith Israel (O)
(Spanish & Portuguese)

Same

Classical

1897

PEEKSKILL
813 Main St.

NY

First Hebrew Cong. (C, O)

Mosque

Gothic

1897-98

WASHINGTON
8th & I Sts., N.W.

DC

Washington Hebrew Cong. (R)

Church

Romanesque/eclectic

1898

CHICAGO
44th St. & St. Lawrence

IL

Temple Israel (R)

Church

Classical

1898

PEORIA
521 N.E. Monroe St.

IL

Anshai Emeth (R)

Church

Gothic/eclectic

c. 1898

ROSENHAYN
600 Garton Road

NJ

Or Yisrael Cong. (disbanded)

Unused

Vernacular

1898-99

CHICAGO
45th St. & Vincennes Ave.

IL

Temple Isaiah (R)

Church

Classical

1898-99

HUNTSVILLE
103 Lincoln St., S.E.

AL

B'nai Sholom (R)

Same

Eclectic

1898-99

DENVER
1595 Pearl St.

CO

Temple Emanuel (R)

Church

Moorish/eclectic

1898-1900

SAG HARBOR
Elizabeth St. & Atlantic Ave.

NY

Temple Mishcan Israel (C)

Temple Adas
Israel (R)

Vernacular

1899

BAY CITY
200 N. Van Buren St.

MI

Shaarey Zedek (C)

Church

Classical

1899-1900

DANVILLE
127 Sutherlin Ave.

VA

Temple Beth Sholom (R)

Same

Eclectic

1899-1900

SELMA
503 Broad St.

AL

Mishkan Israel (R)

Same

Romanesque/eclectic

1899-1900

CORSICANA
208 S. 15th St.

TX

Temple Beth-El (C)

Community center, minyanim

Moorish

1900

NEW YORK CITY
23 W. 118th St.

NY

Shaare Zedek (C)

Church

Moorish

1900

PUEBLO
1325 No. Grand Ave.

CO

Temple Emanuel (R)

Same

Queen Anne

c. 1900

NORMA
Almond Rd. & Wallace St.

NJ

Ahavas Achim (O)
(Norma Brotherhood)

Same

Vernacular

 

Footnote for first page of table:

The dates for each entry generally signify the date of cornerstone and the date of dedication of the original synagogue. Asterisks (*) indicate buildings which have been physically moved to their current location. (O), (C), and (R) stand for Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform; they illustrate the present-day affiliation of the original congregation or its successor through merger. “Same” indicates that the original congregation still uses the building for worship services. With the exception of “Greek Revival”, architectural styles such as Romanesque Revival and Moorish Revival are abbreviated above by omitting the word “Revival”. Buildings which have been totally rebuilt and are no longer recognizable as former places of worship are not included.


The ninety-seven (97) extant synagogues are located in thirty-one states and the District of Columbia.  Twenty are in New York State, with eleven of these in New York City.  Three states (IL, MD and NJ) have six each, with five in Colorado and Pennsylvania and four or less in the other states.

What Has Changed Since 1996

Leadville, CO

Figure 2. Temple Israel in Leadville, CO constructed and dedicated its Victorian Gothic synagogue in 1884. From 1937 to 1982, the building served as a radiator repair shop, dorm housing for miners, a vicarage, and apartment complex. All the original architectural detailing had been removed. However, from 2001 to 2008, the non-profit Temple Israel Foundation restored the façade and interior to its original appearance with the building reopening as a museum in 2012. Photo by Mark W. Gordon.

Additions:  During the last twenty-one years, the author has discovered twelve additional extant pre-1900 synagogue buildings.  These include structures in Cincinnati (Sherith Israel); Centerville, IA; New Orleans; Hudson, NY; Lafayette, LA; Ocala, FL; Brunswick, GA; Schenectady, NY; Allentown, PA; Brooklyn (Ahavath Scholom); Altoona, PA; and Peekskill, NY.

Subtractions:  Unfortunately, the twelve additions were offset by eleven subtractions.  These include discovery of seven demolitions:  Easton, PA (demolished in 2003 after fire damage); Cincinnati (K.K. Bene Israel); Placerville, CA; New York City (Or Zarua demolished by its Jewish congregation in 1999); Atlantic City (demolished by the city in 2013); Chicago (Anshe Emeth on Sedgwick St.); and Charleston, WV.  Some of the demolitions were verified by Google Street View aerial maps, a welcome update in technology.

Other reasons for subtractions include the discoveries that:  1) The Las Vegas, NM synagogue and New York City’s Forsyth St. Synagogue were originally purpose built as churches; 2) Ahavath Sholom in Buffalo was actually constructed in 1901-03 (after the 1900 cut-off); and 3) The synagogue in Demopolis, AL was newly built in the 1950s inside a much larger 1893 synagogue which was subsequently demolished.

Other Updates:  Temple Israel in Leadville, CO (fig. 2) was restored in 2008 to its original appearance by replacing decorative elements previously removed while used as apartments.  Kehilath Anshe Ma’ariv on Chicago’s South Side suffered significant damage from a building fire in 2006.  Only the exterior walls remain of this Chicago School synagogue designed by prominent architects Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan.

Additionally, information on synagogue dates of construction, names and addresses was reviewed and updated in 2018.

Physical Relocation of Synagogue Buildings

Over the years, synagogues in Madison, WI; Washington, DC; Charlottesville, VA (fig. 3); San Leandro, CA; and San Diego, CA, have been physically moved in order to save them from the wrecking ball.  More recently, Temple Beth Israel in Boise, ID was moved in 2003 adjacent to the congregation’s newer building, and B’nai Abraham in Brenham, TX was moved across several counties to the Austin JCC campus in 2014-15.1

Charlottesville, VA

Figure 3. Beth Israel in Charlottesville, VA built its Victorian Gothic synagogue in 1882. After the US Postal Service acquired the congregation’s property for postal uses around the turn of the last century, the synagogue was physically moved to its current location by 1904. Photo by Mark W. Gordon.

Worship and Adaptive Reuse

While many of the buildings originally constructed as synagogues are now used for other purposes, some remain as Jewish houses of worship. In over twenty different states, one or more nineteenth-century buildings are still utilized for Jewish services, as Table 1 indicates

Adaptive reuse of a historic building is defined as implementing a new and/or additional use for a building originally designed for another purpose. Structures such as fire houses, train stations, courthouses, and religious edifices often find new uses. Nineteenth-century synagogues are no exception. For these buildings, the most popular reuse is as a house of worship for another religion. Other successful adaptive reuses of synagogue buildings include offices, museums, community/cultural centers, performing arts centers, and schools. Unusual uses in 2018 include offices for the Catholic Diocese of Helena, MT and those for an anti-abortion group in Grand Rapids, MI. As a building's use is changed, the new owner can renovate it in such a way to preserve the structure's major architectural features. Reuse of a historic synagogue no longer needed by its original congregation is much preferable to demolition.

Some congregations may look to the Talmud for guidance when vacating a synagogue.  Mishnah Megillah 3:1 directs that congregations which sell a synagogue use the proceeds for an equivalent or holier purpose.  Based on interpretations of this text, an Orthodox congregation may place restrictions on a buyer’s future use of its house of worship.  For example, when the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland purchased Baltimore’s Lloyd Street Synagogue in 1963, it accepted a deed restriction that the building would not be used on Shabbat or Jewish festivals.2

Preservation Movement

An exciting development intensifying during the past twenty-five years has been various grassroots efforts to save synagogues threatened with demolition. Synagogues that have been saved from pending demolition include those in Baltimore, Corsicana, TX; Denver (fig. 4); Hartford; Newark, NJ (fig. 5); New York City; and Port Gibson, MS.

Awareness of these successful grassroots efforts to save nineteenth-century synagogues will hopefully spur other communities to mount similar efforts when historic Jewish infrastructure is threatened. Many of the buildings reflect architectural beauty and craftsmanship that would never be created today. Some of them provide a special historical element to a municipality’s original core downtown.

Temple Emanuel of Denver, CO

Figure 4. Temple Emanuel of Denver constructed its Moorish Revival/eclectic synagogue in 1898 with dedication in January 1899. In the early 1980s, the Lovingway Church offered this building for sale. Adjacent to numerous skyscrapers, it was to be razed to create another downtown surface parking lot. However, the Pearl Street Emanuel Foundation raised $180,000 to buy the synagogue and convinced the City of Denver to purchase it to become a performance and conference center. More recently, the building has become home to Denver Community Church. Photo by Mark W. Gordon.

Oheb Shalom in Newark, NJ

Figure 5. Oheb Shalom in Newark, NJ constructed and dedicated its synagogue with Moorish Revival façade in 1884. In the early 1990s, it was threatened with immediate demolition to become part of the site for a middle-class townhouse development. A small group of preservationists, including the author, saved the building from demolition. Purchased by the non-profit Greater Newark Conservancy in 1995, it serves as the centerpiece of the Conservancy’s Urban Environmental Center. The basement and portions of the building’s addition are now open. Sanctuary restoration is pending the final phase of fundraising. Photo by Matthew Gosser.

Architectural Styles

Table 1 includes the architectural styles for each synagogue entry.  Often following trends in secular and ecclesiastical architecture, the look of US synagogues evolved over the decades of the nineteenth century.

The Touro Synagogue, the only extant eighteenth century entry, was designed in the Georgian style by noted colonial architect Peter Harrison. Both Beth Elohim (Charleston, SC) and the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation were constructed in the Greek Revival style, popular for houses of worship in the 1840s and early 1850s. Beth Israel in Honesdale, PA (fig. 6) is an example of this style.  Romanesque Revival synagogues with round-arched windows became evident for several decades beginning in the 1850s as seen in Goldsboro, NC (fig. 7) and Salt Lake City (fig. 8),  Gothic Revival and Victorian styles, like those illustrated in Leadville, CO (fig. 2) and Charlottesville, VA (fig. 3), became more common beginning in the 1870s and 1880s. (A sub-style of Romanesque Revival architecture is Rundbogenstil originating in Germany. Nineteenth-century synagogues in Boise, ID; Lafayette, IN; and Madison, WI are examples of this sub-style (page 304 of the 1986 article features a photo of the Madison building).

Beth Israel in Honesdale, PA

Figure 6. Beth Israel in Honesdale, PA completed its Greek Revival synagogue in 1856. Unusual for a purpose-built Jewish house of worship, the roofline features a steeple, which municipal officials required to grant approval of a building permit. Photo by Mark W. Gordon.

Oheb Sholom of Goldsboro, NC

Figure 7. Oheb Sholom of Goldsboro, NC constructed its Romanesque Revival synagogue in 1886. Photo by Mark W. Gordon.

B’nai Israel of Salt Lake City

Figure 8. B’nai Israel of Salt Lake City built its Romanesque Revival synagogue in 1890–1891. The building is now used as a high-end office furniture store. Unfortunately, the bimah no longer exists. Photo by Mark W. Gordon.

Newport, RI

Figure 9. Shearith Israel, the mother congregation of North America, constructed its fifth synagogue on Central Park West of New York City in 1896–1897. Designed by noted architect Arnold Brunner, the structure reflected the move toward Classical Revival style for synagogues and other public buildings after the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The small chapel inside this Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue contains surviving furnishings and ritual elements from the congregation’s 1730 building. Photo by Mark W. Gordon.

The Moorish Revival style was used heavily for synagogues but not in secular architecture from the 1860s to 1890s. Moorish synagogues often contained onion-shaped domes or minarets, horseshoe arches, and polychromatic decoration. One theory for their popularity is the nineteenth century revival of Jewish scholarly interest in the history of the Sephardic Diaspora, including its Golden Age in Spain and Northern Africa.3 Additionally, congregations built Moorish buildings in part to differentiate them from Victorian-style churches.4   Examples of Moorish synagogues are those in Denver (fig. 4) and Newark (fig. 5).

At the turn of the century, synagogue architecture returned to the American architectural mainstream with a heavy emphasis on the Classical Revival style. The change is attributable to the interest in classical design at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and also to archaeological discoveries of Galilean synagogues built during Roman times.5  This style was adopted by New York City’s Shearith Israel (fig. 9).

The small number of remaining eighteenth- and nineteenth-century structures underscores the transitions that have taken place in Jewish life over the past 150 years.  As Jews migrated out of small towns to large cities, and out of cities to suburbs, the religious spaces that they built have been purchased by new owners and used for new purposes.  Historical preservationists, however, have built community support both within and outside the Jewish community in order to preserve these synagogues as emblems of the Jewish past.

Those interested in learning more about eighteenth- and nineteenth-century synagogues may consult a list of sources linked here.

 

NOTES:

  1. Samuel D. Gruber, “In Texas, a Synagogue is Trucked to Its New City,” Tablet Magazine (New York City: Nextbook Inc., December, 2014).
  2. Earl Pruce, Synagogues, Temples and Congregations in Maryland: 1830-1990 (Baltimore: The Jewish Historical Society of Maryland, 1993), 84.
  3. Samuel D. Gruber, Synagogues (New York: MetroBooks – Friedman/Fairfax Publishers, 1999), 86-88.
  4. Geoffrey Wigoder, The Story of the Synagogue (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986), 174.
  5. Rachel Wischnitzer, Synagogue Architecture in the United States: History and Interpretation (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1955), 91, 95-96.

Mark W. Gordon is currently Principal of Urbana Consulting, LLC, which specializes in transit-oriented development and public/private partnerships.  His prior professional experience includes leadership in public finance, real estate, and economic development at NJ Transit, Illinois DOT, OMB, and the US Senate.  Mark has spearheaded saving and adaptive reuse of Newark’s Prince Street Synagogue built in 1884. He holds a BA from Reed College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.