Guest Post: Preservation in My Community – The Lloyd Street Synagogue

Posted on May 9th, 2019 by

Today we are pleased to share this essay, written by Lauren Mitchell, a senior at River Hill High School in Clarksville, MD. Every year the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House holds an essay contest for Maryland high school seniors – this year’s theme was about preservation in the community – and why preservation matters to the writer. Lauren chose to write about our very own Lloyd Street Synagogue and was kind enough to give us permission to share her essay here. Lauren will be attending the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State University in the fall. And thank you to the Flag House board member who brought Lauren’s essay to our attention!


The Lloyd Street Synagogue sports a historically-accurate, bright pink exterior. This photo was taken after the completion of an extensive preservation project. Photo by Will Kirk.

Growing up in Maryland taught me the importance of appreciating the history of diversity and culture through the recognition and exploration of all religions and backgrounds. The historic preservation of Lloyd Street Synagogue in Baltimore, Maryland is the ideal representation of how accepting a community can be after being properly educated. These efforts have not only impacted my values and ideals, but they allow me to feel accepted in society as a Jewish youth.

The Lloyd Street Synagogue obtains the intricate story of the Jewish people and their journey towards freedom. The preservation of this Synagogue not only depicts the importance of history but also works to inhibit anti-semitism and all religious discrimination through education. The Lloyd Street Synagogue was the first to be built in Maryland, exemplifying efforts to increase religious acceptance globally. The state of Maryland is acknowledging our history through the preservation of this historic landmark, enforcing that a history of religious discrimination does not repeat itself. Through the preservation of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, I learned how amazing my community is and how driven we all are to create a better future for the next generation.

Due to the vast acceptance of all religions, backgrounds, and cultures in my community, I am not scared to be myself or embrace my religious values. Acknowledging the absent fear of discrimination, I thrived on the executive board of my Jewish youth group and served four six-month board positions. I am grateful to have the freedom to enjoy my religious community and explore countless others, and I plan to continue exploring this community in college through Hillel and other faith-based activities.

This freedom and sense of acceptance have impacted me greatly, and it absolutely catalyzed my beliefs in historic preservation. Before my exploration into the Lloyd Street Synagogue, I already knew that historic preservation was important but I did not truly understand why. After personally seeing the effect of historic preservation, I discovered how extremely necessary this tactic is to enforce a positive community of educated and accepting citizens.

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A Surprising Find at Eastern State Penitentiary

Posted on May 2nd, 2018 by

A blog post by Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

On Monday, April 23, the JMM management team (Marvin, Tracey, Joanna, Ilene and me) piled into Ilene’s car and drove to Philadelphia.

We made the trip to visit our colleagues at the National Museum of American Jewish History and at the Eastern State Penitentiary. Both institutions provided engaging and meaningful experiences, and both provided surprises. I will leave some stories for other posts (and maybe other writers), and focus here on what I found the most surprising about Eastern State Penitentiary: its synagogue.

The historic prison has a beautifully restored synagogue in its midst. I was surprised when our tour guide first mentioned its existence, and my surprise was only compounded when we stepped into the space.

The small room is paneled in a dark wood not unlike our own Rosen-Salganik Board Room, with a simple but decorative ark in one corner and a golden star of David medallion on the ceiling.

The original synagogue door shows the ghosts of two stars of David that used to adorn it.

The space had been built in the early 20th century. “Were there a lot of Jewish prisoners here?” I wondered aloud. Our tour guide informed me that when the synagogue was completed in the 1920s, about 80 of the 1400 prisoners there were Jewish. Rather than a pressing demand for Jewish religious expression among the prisoners, the Eastern State synagogue was built by the broader Philadelphia Jewish community. Likewise, the gleaming, restored space was made possible by the contemporary community.

Once we had had a chance to take in the space, our guide asked for our help flipping down a long section of paneling. As the section flipped down on a long piano hinge, exhibit panels were revealed, presenting the history of the space and of Jewish life at Eastern State.

We had fun comparing historical photos to the contemporary space in which we stood, and were all intrigued to read that the first Jewish clergy to visit Eastern State did so in 1845, the same year our own Lloyd Street Synagogue was born.

Also on display in the synagogue space was a small crowd-sourced display, Share Your Mitzvah.

The Eastern State staff created cards that allowed visitors to share mitzvahs done either by them or for them. They’d also created cards for children to draw pictures to share their stories of good-deed-doing or -receiving. I was impressed with both the sentiment of the display and the low-tech efficiency of it.

In fact, don’t be surprised if one day in the not-too-distant future JMM asks for similar crowd-sourced reports of good-deed-doings.

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Preservation Month: How to Reuse a Room

Posted on May 21st, 2015 by

As decreed in 1973 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, May is Preservation Month!  Each year national, regional, and local organizations – including Preservation Maryland – take the opportunity to engage the public in discussion  about why preservation of the natural and built environment is important.

Though we are not a formal preservation organization, the JMM has delved into that side of history upon occasion.  The Lloyd Street Synagogue is, of course, a prime example; we were essentially founded (as the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland) to help save the building, which was threatened with demolition in the early 1960s.  Many individuals and organizations came together to preserve the oldest synagogue in Maryland, allowing us to share the building’s history and stories with our visitors for over 50 years.

Lester Levy and audience during the Lloyd Street Synagogue restoration dedication, 1962. Donated by Janet Fishbein (daughter of Susan Levy Bodenheimer), Ellen Patz, Ruth Gottesman & Vera Mende. JMM#2002.079.034

Lester Levy and audience during the Lloyd Street Synagogue restoration dedication, 1962. Donated by Janet Fishbein (daughter of Susan Levy Bodenheimer), Ellen Patz, Ruth Gottesman & Vera Mende. JMM#2002.079.034

A smaller and less well-known preservation project under our belt is the Hendler Creamery Company office, also known (now) as the JMM’s Rosen-Salganik Board Room.

The fireplace wall of the JMM’s Rosen-Salganik Board Room, May 2015.

The fireplace wall of the JMM’s Rosen-Salganik Board Room, May 2015.

The Hendler Creamery Company, founded in 1905, moved into an imposing structure at 1100 E. Baltimore Street in 1912.  The building had originally been constructed in 1892 as a cable-car powerhouse, and was briefly used as a Yiddish theater; the Hendler Company converted it into an automated ice cream factory.  Sometime between 1912 and the 1920s, Manuel Hendler commissioned a mahogany-paneled room –complete with brass fixtures and a large mantlepiece – to serve as his private office on the building’s second floor.

The Hendler Creamery building, decked out for the company's golden anniversary. JMM 1998.47.21.3

The Hendler Creamery building, decked out for the company’s golden anniversary. JMM 1998.47.21.3

After the creamery closed in the 1970s, the building was purchased by developer Samuel Boltansky.  In 1995 he donated to the JMM the room’s paneling and trim, in order to preserve this piece of the building’s history (albeit in a new location a block away).  The museum was about to undergo an expansion, and Bernard Fishman, our Director at the time, suggested we add a new space to the plans to accommodate Hendler’s office as completely as we could. Thus, in 1997, a local millwork firm installed the paneling, mantel, and lights into our brand-new Rosen-Salganik Board Room.

Two views of the paneling installation, July 1997.  JMM# IA 3.0491, IA 3.0526

Two views of the paneling installation, July 1997. JMM# IA 3.0491, IA 3.0526

Like many historic buildings and spaces, the Hendler office is a survivor, with multiple uses and locations along its journey.  Family stories tell us that the paneling came from a bar or saloon before Mr. Hendler, known as an avid collector, installed it in his office.  We can’t confirm that story, but physical evidence discovered during the Board Room installation process showed that the panels had already been retrofitted at least once; unfortunately, its prior history is unclear.

In the room’s current space, there are some variations from the original, of course; we have sturdy carpet, in place of a parquet floor, and a moderately plain rather than decorative plaster ceiling. Nonetheless, it’s an impressive space for JMM meetings, and a nice way to actively preserve and make use of this unique historic resource.

…As for the Hendler Creamery building itself – rest easy, preservationists; it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, and plans are underway for an adaptive reuse development.

JoannaA blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts from Joanna click HERE.

 

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