Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum
Adas Israel Synagogue (original)
Adas Israel Synagogue in 2008
|Location||701 3rd Street NW Washington, D.C.|
|Architect||Max Kleinman; J. William & Co.|
|NRHP Reference #|||
|Added to NRHP||March 24, 1969|
The Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum, also known as the Adas Israel Synagogue, is located at 701 Third Street Northwest Washington, D.C., in the Judiciary Square neighborhood. It is the oldest surviving synagogue building in the District. It was erected in 1876 by the Adas Israel Congregation. The museum is operated by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. The museum's executive director is Laura Apelbaum.
The museum building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites, and Historic American Buildings Survey. It is among the oldest synagogue buildings still standing in the United States. It is also an official project of the Save America's Treasures program.
Originally located at 6th and G Streets Northwest, Washington, D.C., the building was moved to its current location three blocks away in 1969.
It is slated for a second move so that the property can be redeveloped for a mixed-use project. Its new permanent home will be at 3rd and F Streets NW, slightly closer to the building's original location. The new move will allow the synagogue to face east, the standard orientation in Jewish tradition.
After years of planning and fundraising, the congregation completed and dedicated its first synagogue building just in time for the nation’s Centennial celebration—providing a strong and symbolic presence for Jewish immigrants on that historic occasion. The synagogue stood at the corner of 6th and G Streets, NW, in the heart of the city’s residential and commercial center, where many of the congregants lived and worked.
An influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe and Russia swelled the congregation’s numbers. The congregation continued to worship in the original synagogue until 1908, when a new building at Sixth and I Streets, NW, was dedicated. The original building was sold to Stephen Gatti, an Italian fruit dealer and real estate investor who lived a block away. In the 1910s, Saint Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church worshiped in the second-floor sanctuary. A succession of churches followed in the 1920s to 1940s. During the course of the next 60 years, the former synagogue’s first floor was divided into retail spaces and housed a bicycle shop, barber, Joseph Funger’s grocery store, Anthony Litteri’s delicatessen, and other businesses.
In the 1960s, plans for the construction of Metro headquarters threatened the building with demolition. With the support of federal and city agencies, the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington saved the building and moved it three city blocks to its current location at Third and G Streets, NW. On September 1, 1969, President Richard Nixon signed a law authorizing the District to purchase the building and lease it to the Society for historic preservation purposes—at $1 a year for 99 years.
The historic synagogue building has been restored by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington and is now home to the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum. Washington’s oldest surviving synagogue building, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites, and the Historic American Buildings Survey. It is among the oldest synagogue buildings still standing in the United States. It is also an official project of the Save America’s Treasures program. Today the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington hosts building tours, walking tours, lectures, student field trips, weddings, and bar and bat mitzvahs in the historic sanctuary.
- National Museum of American Jewish Military History
- National Register of Historic Places listings in central Washington, D.C.
- National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- The Temple That Traveled, Washington Post, August 14, 2005
- Rediscovering Jewish Infrastructure: Update on United States Nineteenth Century Synagogues, Mark W. Gordon, American Jewish History 84.1 (1996) 11-27 
- "National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form" (PDF). National Park Service. December 1968. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
- Kravitz, Derek (August 3, 2010). "District's first synagogue slated for move to make way for mixed-use development". Washington Post. p. B01. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
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