Posted on April 6th, 2016 by Rachel
Last year, the organization MADE: In America designated the Carroll Mansion as its “All American House” for 2016. From April 23 to July 7, 2016 the Carroll Mansion will be transformed into a showcase for some of the most innovative manufacturers and craftsmen in Baltimore and across the nation. The city expanded the celebration by inviting partner organizations in what it’s calling the “Baltimore’s American Treasures” event.
The Carroll Mansion, 2016’s “All-American House”
Located just a few blocks away from the Carroll Mansion in Baltimore’s oldest neighborhood, Historic Jonestown, is the Jewish Museum of Maryland (JMM). To play our part in the celebration we’re hosting special events in recognition of the Lloyd Street Synagogue as a truly All American Synagogue. Built in 1845, the Lloyd Street Synagogue is the third oldest Jewish house of worship still standing in the United States. The building was designed by Robert Cary Long, Jr., a prominent church architect of the era. Nearly every component of the original building and its 1860 renovation were the result of American craft and manufacture from the stenciling to the wooden pews to the stained glass Star of David.
The Lloyd Street Synagogue
The museum has spent the winter researching the material history of the building – which switched hands multiple times, serving first as a traditional German synagogue, then as a reformed temple, later it became a Lithuanian Catholic Church and finally a Russian Orthodox shul. Each iteration brought new design elements into the building, holy arks and altars, mezuzot and an organ. We’ve sifted through the records to identify some of the most interesting stories of how this site was designed and built to serve the needs of successive waves of immigrants.
The oldest extant photo of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Courtesy of the Ross J. Kelbaugh Collection, JMM 1997.71.1
Not every story has been easy to trace. Where did the synagogues first Torah scroll come from? What was the origin of the church’s bells and where did they go when the church was sold? How did church chandeliers end up hanging from the ceiling of an Orthodox synagogue? Questions like these led to the idea of our “Book, Bell and Candle Mystery Experience” (offered each Sunday from May 1 through July 7 at 3pm). Our expert history sleuth will transport you into the shoes of a researcher on the trail of holy artifacts. Made in America? Or lovingly imported? Only one thing is certain – “it belongs in a museum” – the Jewish Museum of Maryland.
Chandelier inside the Lloyd Street Synagogue
We’ve set three Sundays aside for activities related to design work for the whole family. On May 1 our focus is on crafts related to the building itself. It includes a closer look at the stained glass windows and the art behind them. On May 29, our “Welcome to Jonestown” free family day will feature crafts related to music in the synagogue. Finally, on June 26, we will offer demonstrations of specialized skills required to manufacture the artifacts of the synagogue – from a sofer (scribe) illustrating Hebrew calligraphy to a blacksmith making fencework.
Leaded glass window. East wall. Over ark. Lloyd Street Synagogue- Baltimore. restored 1964. IA 1024.
Come see how the Lloyd Street Synagogue and its congregations fit into the fabric of America’s material culture.
Posted on February 25th, 2013 by Rachel
A blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik.
A week or two ago a teacher from a college in Pennsylvania called me, asking about Jewish cultural sites to visit in Baltimore that would be open on a Saturday because that was when she was bringing her World Religions class on a field trip here. I told that was going to be a little difficult.
What I could offer, however, was to email her a copy of our self-guided walking tour. She seemed excited about that, and our conversation ended on a satisfied note. The only problem now was that I knew the tour hadn’t been updated since 2007, and the “construction sites” mentioned in the script were now the completed houses of Albemarle Square.
For those of you who don’t know (and this might even include some JMM staff members!), our self-guided walking tour takes the visitor around our neighborhood of Historic Jonestown and tells a little about the history of some of the buildings that you see—and some of the buildings that you don’t see. For example, one of the stops is the old Hendler’s Creamery Company building on Baltimore Street, and another is the Russian Bath that once occupied the space where Lenny’s Deli now stands.
Ilene and I looked through the tour, updated it to match the current landscape, and we also decided to add more information. In the old script, almost nothing was mentioned about St John the Baptist Lithuanian Roman Catholic Church other than the fact that the congregation occupied the Lloyd Street Synagogue from 1890 to 1905. So, I added some tidbits that I thought would be very interesting about how the Lithuanian Catholics used their building. Did you know that the Lithuanian Garment Workers’ Union was founded in Lloyd Street Synagogue? Well, now you do, and anyone who takes the walking tour will also know that fact.
We also added more information about the Carroll Mansion, which is a couple of blocks away from us, but in order to do that, I had to do a little bit of research about the building’s history myself. I had no idea that the Mansion had gone through so many phases in its long life. I thought the Lloyd Street Synagogue had a complicated life story, but the Carroll Mansion has got it beat! First, it was the residence of the Carroll family—including the famous Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence. It later became a tenement house for immigrants, and then a sweatshop-tenement combo, and then it was a vocational school, and a recreation center, and a WPA project during the Great Depression, until 1962, when it finally became a museum.
The part of historic restoration and preservation that fascinates me the most is what you do with a building that has had several roles in its life. To what era do you restore it? Is it more important to highlight the mansion’s first incarnation as the residence of an important personage? Do you use the building to talk about sweatshops? Or could you use it to talk about the Great Depression? There are so many roads to choose, and I don’t know how to even begin deciding which one to take.
The Jewish Historical Society/Jewish Museum of Maryland had a similar dilemma with Lloyd Street Synagogue, and they ended up creating an interesting compromise—combining elements of the building that were present during Baltimore Hebrew’s tenure and that of Shomrei Mishmeres.
I think it’s time I made a little field trip to the Carroll Mansions to see how they dealt with this challenge.