Objects of the Month

June 2010: 1876 Synagogue / Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum

1876 Synagogue / Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum
  • Description:

    Adas Israel Congregation's first synagogue building, 1876

The 1876 synagogue, built by Adas Israel Congregation as its first home, is the largest item in our collection.  President Ulysses S. Grant attended the dedication services on June 9, 1876, and donated $10 to the synagogue's building fund, the equivalent of $200 today.

The congregation soon outgrew its home and built a new synagogue at Sixth & I Streets, NW, in 1908. Its first building was sold and used by a succession of churches, a bicycle shop, a dentist, a barber, and even a pork BBQ!

Photograph of synagogue on large dolley, moving onto street, 1969
It stood for more than 90 years on the site before the new subway system (Metro) wanted to demolish the building to build its new headquarters. After a series of urgent letters and frantic preparations, several dedicated members of the Jewish Historical Society saved the building from the wrecking ball. On December 18, 1969, the building was moved three blocks to its present site, Third and G Streets, NW. 

Group of school children with actress Sue Holliday dressed as Anna Shulman
Community contributions and a gift from Lillian & Albert Small helped restore the synagogue. Rededicated in 1975 as the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum, the building is used for public programs, youth educational programs and private life-cycle events.

UPDATE: The museum's future is affect by a major new development project. As part of the project, the Society is planning the movie of the synagogue one block south to Third and F Streets, NW. The new location will allow the synagogue to regain its original orientation facing east toward Jerusalem and will provide the Society with land on which to build an adjacent museum. Learn more

To donate materials that document downtown synagogues to the Jewish Historical Society, contact us at (202) 789-0900 or info@jhsgw.org.