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Making a Museum - Issue 4 0 Comment(s)

Have you heard? We're building a new museum!
The 1876 synagogue is moving a block south to Third & F Streets, NW, where the Society will build an adjacent, state-of-the-art Jewish museum.
The new complex will anchor a $1.3-billion mixed-used project called Capitol Crossing — a five-building office, retail, and residential complex developed by Property Group Partners — which will extend onto a newly-built platform over Interstate 395.

On Site

The synagogue’s streetscape has been permanently altered – the trees on the adjacent sidewalk were removed in August. Around the construction zone, utilities continue to be relocated, including the installation of the new water main along Third Street. Down on I-395, crews have been installing deep foundation columns and walls and excavating the Second Street retaining wall.

For more information, visit www.3rdsttunnel.com.

A New Jewish Museum

Excerpt from SmithGroup JJR presentation to the JHSGW Board of Directors.

In late October, the Board of Directors selected SmithGroup JJR as architects for the new museum.

The selection process began with sending a Request for Qualifications to approximately 20 firms with experience in additions to historic buildings, museum design, and complex projects in Washington, D.C. After receiving packages from 12 firms, the Museum Steering Committee invited five firms for interviews. Three of the five were asked to submit fee proposals and participate in a design exercise and additional interview. The Steering Committee then visited local projects designed by the two finalists.

This decision to engage SmithGroup JJR took into account the firm’s extensive museum experience, attention to value engineering, and pricing.

Catching Up With… Lief Dormsjo, Director, District Department of Transportation

Nominated by Mayor Muriel Bowser soon after she took office, Leif Dormsjo was confirmed as director of the District of Columbia Department of Transportation in March. Making a Museum spoke with Dormsjo, who was previously deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, about the Third Street Tunnel Project, the first phase of Capitol Crossing.

MaM: When you came to DDOT, how much did you know about Capitol Crossing?

Dormsjo: I knew about the project mainly from the concerns raised about some of the traffic impacts. Shortly before Mayor Bowser came into office, there was a story about the idea that 395 would be closed permanently during the construction period. And that generated a lot of severe reaction from the Congressional delegations. I know Senator [Mark] Warner and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton intervened pretty rapidly to try to halt any plans associated with that.

MaM: What’s happening now and what is DDOT’s involvement?

Dormsjo: As you can see from the site right now, they’re working on those caissons. So you’ve got a lot of heavy equipment, you’ve got a lot of personnel out on the job site. We’ve got to keep them safe… And then we’re also looking very closely at the travel experience: whether or not we have clear signage and we’ve got clear markings on the road, or the Jersey barriers have been set up appropriately. So far we haven’t had any issues on the safety front. It is slower travel through there, without a doubt—that kind of is the price of progress—but it’s safe travel.

MaM: Is this the biggest transportation-related project in the District right now?

Dormsjo: This is the Big Kahuna in terms of real-estate development in the city. It’s three whole city blocks. So the development program is really exciting and will generate a lot of activity in this area. The infrastructure piece is $200 million. That’s a big-ticket project, but—as far as our transportation program—the South Capitol Bridge project is north of $500 million. Now, the construction here is being done by the private company. It’s not a government project. There’s no government money in the project, which is pretty phenomenal… And it’s great that they’re actually going to be making some improvements that the public will benefit from on the transportation side. They’re going to replace all the ventilation systems, give us a brand new tunnel ventilation system.

MaM: So that part of the highway will not only be decked over, but upgraded.

Dormsjo: We’re going to be the beneficiary of new equipment, new systems, and hopefully a ventilation system that’s durable for the long haul. The highway system helps us support commerce and commuting. You’ve got to have a roadway system that works not just for the District residents, but also our visitors and employees coming from Virginia, Maryland, and elsewhere. So this is a great example of us reinvesting in the Eisenhower Highway System, but at the same time not being held back by those original transportation-planning decisions. We’re able to kind of remake history a bit here and retrofit a highway that’s served its purpose, and will continue to serve its purpose. But the 1950s and ’60s style of transportation planning—neighborhood connectivity, urban planning principles, walkable green neighborhoods was not in their vocabulary.

MaM: How does transit-oriented thinking fit into the project?

Dormsjo: When you look at a project you normally want to see what percentage of your trips are going to be auto category vs. transit vs. pedestrian… They’re got a very healthy percentage that’s in that transit-pedestrian-and-bike category. Development that’s emphasizing those categories of travel are the ones that we really want to support. Certainly there’s good bus service running through there—not just the Metro, but we have our Circulator bus that comes through there as well.

Collection Connections

From left to right, then-JHSGW President Henry Brylawski, Rep. Fred Schwengel—also president of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, and Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz look at the model at a fundraising event, 1969

Bernard Glassman, who was featured in a previous issue of Making a Museum, contributed this scale model of the historic synagogue to use in meetings between the Jewish Historical Society and government agencies during the efforts to preserve the building in the late 1960s. The model is now on display in the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum.

Did You Know?

Page from HABS architectural drawings. 

Library of Congress.

Due to its significance as the first synagogue erected in Washington, DC, the 1876 building is included in the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS).

HABS, the National Park Service’s effort to document the country’s architecture, is the federal government’s oldest historic preservation program. HABS’s records are housed at the Library of Congress and the synagogue’s documentation, which includes photographs, a detailed description of the building and its history, and architectural drawings, can be accessed online.

The material was prepared in 1969 before the synagogue was moved and was updated later to indicate the new location. The architectural drawings depict the synagogue’s interior and exterior prior to the restoration work, which was completed five years after the move. Four of five accompanying photographs show the building at Sixth & G Street, NW. The fifth depicts the building moving down G Street, NW.

Does Your Building Move? 0 Comment(s)

See more photos of the move on Flickr!

Today is the 46th anniversary of the move of the historic Adas Israel synagogue. Dedicated by the congregation in 1876, the building stood for more than 90 years at Sixth & G Streets, NW, before being slated for demolition to make space for Metro's headquarters.

Three members of the Jewish Historical Society -- Evelyn Greenberg z"l, Henry Brylawski z''l, and Bernard Glassman -- worked tirelessly with D.C. and federal governments to save the building from the wrecking ball. To move a building in the federal city, President Richard Nixon had to sign a bill into law!

On December 18, 1969, the building was moved three blocks to its present location at Third & G Streets, NW. The first floor was too weak to survive a move, so the structure was severed horizontally and only the second and third floors (sanctuary and balcony levels) made the journey by flatbed truck. Read an interview with "Wild Bill" Patram, who engineered the move.

The synagogue is listed on:

And it is an official project of the Save America's Treasures program.

As part of a major new development project, the historic synagogue will soon move again -- this time one block south to the corner of Third & F Streets, NW. The new location will allow the synagogue to regain its original orientation facing east toward Jerusalem and will provide land on which to build an adjacent new museum. Follow our progress on this project through our Making a Museum e-newsletter.

Support these and other exciting activities with a year-end contribution to the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington!

  • Donate online
  • Call (202) 789-0900 and ask for Mary Ann or Sam
  • Send a check to JHSGW, PO Box 791104, Baltimore, MD 21279