7. The Lower East Side’s Eldridge Street Synagogue is One of Only Two Synagogues Designated a National Historic Landmark in New York City

Interior of the Eldridge Street Synagogue

Located in Chinatown, the Eldridge Street Synagogue was built in the 19th century amidst the surge of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. The main sanctuary of the synagogue was abandoned and only rediscovered in the 70’s, when the warped doors were opened again to a flurry of cobwebs, transporting NYU Professor Gerarde Wolfe to a hauntingly preserved time capsule of what the synagogue once was.

It has since been restored and now serves as an education center, which provides pay-what-you-wish tours. Although the original building took ten months to build, the restoration took twenty years and $18.5 million to complete.

As one of the first erected in the United States by Eastern European Jews, the Eldridge Street Synagogue has a vibrant 120+ year history with a multitude of little-known secrets. Many intricate details of the building, for example, are actually faux. (The walls and columns of the Eldridge Street Synagogue may appear to be made of fine marble, but they’re actually painted.) If you have a chance to sit in the pews of the synagogue, make sure to also check out the pine floorboards beneath you. By sliding your feet along the surface, you’ll feel a slight dip in the wood, which stands as a mark left behind by generations of visitors.