Month: December 2016

Washington’s oldest synagogue moved 2nd time in 140-year history

For the second time in its 140-year history, Washington’s oldest synagogue was relocated Thursday, making way for the massive Capitol Crossing project in downtown D.C.

Like a biblical event, Adas Israel Synagogue floated away from its foundation. The synagogue at 3rd and G Streets NW was only shifted slightly, about a dozen yards. But this move took months of preparation and a lot of faith.

Capitol Crossing developer Bob Braunohler said, “It’s just a masonry structure so it can crack easily.”

This summer, crews punctured steel beams through the building’s base, reinforced the corners, dug out the foundation and gently lifted the 273 ton structure over a large platform with wheels.

Just before the move Thursday morning, a rabbi offered up prayers while crews smoothed out the soil to ensure no sudden bumps or friction.

“We have plenty of insurance. That helps me sleep better,” Braunohler said with laughter.

In all, it took about 30 minutes to move the structure about 40 feet. All of this played out in slow motion, with the wheels barely moving, less than 1 mile per hour.

In the end, the building was parked Thursday in a temporary space just off 3rd Street NW.

In 24 to 30 months, the building will move to a new, permanent location a block south at 3rd and F Streets NW.

The Jewish Historical Society plans to build a new museum there exploring Washington’s Jewish history with the synagogue as its centerpiece.

The synagogue was dedicated in 1876, with President Ulysses S. Grant in attendance.

“It’s the first time a U.S. president had attended a synagogue service,” said Wendy Turman, deputy director of the Jewish Historical Society.

Over time, the building transformed from a Greek orthodox church to a grocery store to a BBQ pork carry-out restaurant.

“So there was a neon pig on the corner of this former Jewish house of worship,” Turman said.

In 1969, when Metro was building its new downtown D.C. headquarters at the synagogue’s prior location, the building was saved from demolition and relocated a few blocks east.