4. Most of the Details in the Eldridge Street Synagogue are Faux
From a distance, the walls and columns of the Eldridge Street Synagogue appear to be made of fine marble. Get closer, and you realize they are actually painted to look like it. Fluted columns on the ark in the downstairs sanctuary are the same. In the front of the upstairs sanctuary, tromp l’oeils (meaning trick of the eye) on either side of the ark show a traditional curtain over the ark doors, painted to look real.
These techniques were a significant cost savings to utilizing the real thing but was still far more expensive than a simple coat of paint–all the details were applied by hand. Even for the restoration, everything was painted by hand, despite the advent of computer technology.
The choice of wood also reflects a hierarchy of materials. The ark and bimah, the sacred areas of the synagogue, are made of fine walnut. The pews are of oak, chosen for sturdiness and the floors and balcony are of pine.