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Maryland's National Register Properties



Photo credit: Charity V. Davidson, 11/1997
Chizuk Amuno Synagogue
Inventory No.: B-3707
Other Name(s): B'nai Israel Synagogue
Date Listed: 4/19/1978
Location: 27-35 Lloyd Street, Baltimore, Baltimore City
Category: Building
Period/Date of Construction: 1876
Architect/Builder: Architect: Henry Burck
Description: The B’nai Israel Synagogue is a subdued Victorian Gothic structure that synthesizes Romanesque and Moorish elements with traditional Jewish symbols. A three-story gable-front brick structure, the synagogue is eight narrow bays wide across the gable end that faces the street and ten bays long. The façade is laid in all stretcher bond and is presently painted red and striped to simulate mortar. An earlier black and white photograph shows this painted a light stone color with slightly darker trim. The brick on the other walls is laid in common bond and unpainted. The façade has a symmetrical design composed of a 4-bay center section flanked on each side by a slightly projecting two-bay section. These three sections are divided by four 2 ½-story brick pilasters. The entrance occupies the entire first floor center section. It consists of a wide but shallow arcaded vestibule containing three granite Moorish arched doorways; the center arch is taller and wider than the ones on each side. Arched decorative doors of wood are deeply recessed within each arch. The first and second floors are separated by a series of rectangular stone blocks, slightly recessed within brick frames. The string course running at the bottoms of these blocks is interrupted in the center by a rectangular stone block inscribed in Hebrew. The projecting two-bay sections contain two 1/1 lancet-arched windows on the first and second floors. Four of these windows appear in the center section of the second floor. The third story, center section is occupied by a large circular window with heavy tracery forming a sept-partie pattern, in a recessed panel surrounded by a pointed brick arch. The arch is framed by a course of bricks that follows the rake of the gable. The gable comprises Romanesque corbelled cascading blind arches. The cornice is a plain fascia molding. Rising from the apex of the gable are stone tablets inscribed in Hebrew with the Ten Comandments. The two end double bays project slightly, each terminating in a moderately pitched cornice repeating the angle of the roof. The gable end of each bay has a small, circular window. Also framed by stone, the windows have a simpler tracery pattern than the center one. The windows rest on a brick string course. The cascading blind arches are also repeated on each gable. A smaller, more simple single stone tablet, painted to resemble an antifex, rises from the apex. Significance: The history of this structure is associated with two congregations, the Chizuk Amuno, "Perpetuators of Faith," and the B’nai Israel, "Children of Israel," which still uses the building. Its significance relates to the achievements of both congregations, and to the fact that the Synagogue continues to contribute to the rich ethnic and religious history of Baltimore. The founding congregation not only served to retain traditional Jewish worship in Baltimore, but was one of the first congregations of Conservative Judaism in America. The Chizuk Amuno Congregation was founded in 1871 by former members of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation who resigned in protest of reforms made to the traditional services. The second and present congregation is a remarkable survival of an earlier era when religion was a significant daily activity. The congregation has witnessed over a hundred years of daily prayer, study and assembly, the three traditional functions of a synagogue. The architect of this building was Henry Burck, whose design was supposedly based on that of the Schieff Congregation in Vienna. The carpentry was done by E.F. Hausen and the interior frescoes by F. Moore. The building was completed in 1876.

 

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