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“History in Transit: ‘Wild Bill’ Patram’s Job to Remember” 0 Comment(s)

On the move!

(originally published in The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington's journal, The Record, May 1970)


There are many things Jews might consider a moving experience: the bar mitzvah of a precious child, the loving embrace of a friend in a time of mourning, even a simple taste of Bubbe’s perfect chicken soup on a frigid winter day.

It was during such a day—December 18, 1969—that William B. “Wild Bill” Patram organized the passage of an antique building just right, thereby realizing a rite of passage for a whole community. The wind-chill factor may have dipped below the 20s on that bitter morning, but the warmth of the occasion made it a moving experience in more ways than one. Structural moving engineer Bill Patram of Fairfax, Virginia, now a retired silver-haired septuagenarian with a booming baritone voice and a vivid memory, recalls the job to move the old Adas Israel synagogue as a “good project.” Despite the challenges of the weather, a miniconflagration, the usual hassles with city bureaucrats, and one collateral casualty—in the form of a dead pigeon—the transition of the 237-ton object from Sixth & G Streets to Third & G Streets, NW, went mostly according to plan. Saved from destruction by an act of Congress after Metro officials appropriated the original site, the future home for the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington and the Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum would never have survived without the crafty logistical skills of a specialist like Patram.

Download interview with "Wild Bill" Patram (PDF)

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