This is What the Eldridge Street Synagogue Looked Like Before its 20-year Restoration [PHOTOS]
“It was as though the synagogue was held up by strings from heaven.” —Roberta Brandes Gratz, founder of the Eldridge Street Project
Ten years have elapsed since the Eldridge Street Synagogue reopened in spectacular fashion. Hard to believe. The Lower East Side landmark, situated at the bottom of its namesake street, spent the prior two decades undergoing a massive $20 million restoration. The job began in 1987, yet was not fully completed until 2007. Nearly all the stained glass windows are original and were salvaged with about 75% of the original pieces. Its unofficial re-consecration, though, was in 2010 when artists Kiki Smith and Deborah Gans designed and installed the spectacular East Window.
The house of worship had it tough before the proverbial rebirth. Without a substantial congregation, the synagogue itself fell out of active use in the mid-1950s. The main sanctuary was sealed shut, while the ground floor “study” remained operational. Twenty years went by before the grand room was revisited, ruined by water and the elements. However, it wasn’t until 1986 that preservationist Roberta Brandes Gratz founded the Eldridge Street Project to save the institution. Through her guidance, the synagogue obtained landmark status and attracted donations from 18,000 supporters that went toward restoration.
So, now that ten years are between us, let’s take a look back at the synagogue when it was a hazardous afterthought.
Photos courtesy of the Museum at Eldridge Street, Whitney Cox, and Michael Horowitz