Photo by Peter Aaron of the 2010 window installation. Photo courtesy of the Museum at Eldridge Street
In 2007, the Eldridge Street Synagogue in New York’s Lower East Side completed its renovation after a 20-year, $20 million effort. On the occasion of the 10-year anniversary, the Museum at Eldridge Street will be presenting the restoration journey in the exhibition, Rediscovery, Restoration & Renewal: The Eldridge Street Synagogue in Photographs.
Opened in 1887, the Eldridge Street Synagogue was one of the first erected in the United States by Eastern European Jews. In 1987, local residents and urban preservationists joined forces to save the stunning architectural marvel from the verge of collapse.
The exhibition at the Museum housed within the Lower East Side institution and National Historic Landmark will feature 45 large-scale photographs by more than a dozen photographers dating from the 1970s to the present. It will trace the rediscovery of the American-Jewish landmark, the painstaking restoration process, and an impassioned debate about commissioning a contemporary work of art for this 19th century space. Photographers in the exhibition include works by Peter Aaron/OTTO, Frank Hallam Day, and Wijnanda Deroo among many others.
Works on display will be featured in color, and black and white to showcase the synagogue’s transformation, while additional drawings and photographs will capture the building’s 21st-century renewal. It will also highlight the 2010 installation of a 6,000-pound, stained-glass rose window designed by artist Kiki Smith and architect Deborah Gans, sitting on its eastern wall, overlooking the sanctuary.
According to their press release, upon the completion of the restoration in 2007, “the main sanctuary of the synagogue looked much as it did a century earlier – with one glaring exception. Industrial-looking glass blocks filled the space where a grand rose window once graced the synagogue’s eastern wall.” The beautiful stained-glass window by Smith and Gans was commissioned by the Museum’s Board of Directors to fill the empty space.
In its efforts to continue to restore, maintain and sustain the its magnificent landmark home for years to come, the Museum at Eldridge Street received an extraordinary challenge to double a $500,000 bequest to establish a $1 million Building Restoration Fund. It leads with the mission to “to ensure that the continuing story of the Eldridge Street Synagogue is told for generations to come.”
Rediscovery, Restoration & Renewal: The Eldridge Street Synagogue in Photographs will open on Thursday, September 14 at a reception from 6:00 – 8:00 pm, and will be on view through March 1, 2018. The reception is free and open to all, and RSVP is requested.
The Museum at Eldridge Street is located at 12 Eldridge St, between Division and Canal Streets. View more photos of the space below.
Before the restoration. Photo courtesy of the Museum at Eldridge Street
Stained glass reassembly by the Gil Studio. Photo courtesy of the Museum at Eldridge Street
Learn more about Kiki Smith’s and Deborah Gans’ incredible window in our Secrets of Eldridge Street Synagogue’s Eastern Rose Window, and take a look at 5 Repurposed NYC Former Synagogues.