by Sara Pochedly
Beth Sholom Synagogue, Elkins Park: (An afternoon adventure) A quick 30 minute drive from Center City, Philadelphia
You don’t really get to see a city until you have visitors. Being a transplant to the city of Philadelphia, I have many friends and family members come to visit every year. I have visited many of the well-known and recommended places on numerous occasions and was looking for something new. I brought this up to the office to see if they had some off the beaten path recommendations, and Bart said “have you ever been to the Frank Lloyd Wright synagogue in Elkins Park?” I looked at him quite puzzled—a Frank Lloyd Wright building so close? I honestly didn’t have any recollection of hearing of this building before. I have been to several of Frank Lloyd Wright’s other buildings, including Fallingwater, his studio in Oak Park, Robie House, Unity Chapel and Guggenheim Museum and was very interested in learning more about his work close by.
A few weekends ago when my parents were in town, we made the trip to Beth Sholom Synagogue. We had to order tickets in advance (which can be purchased through their website) and arrived for the last tour available on a Sunday afternoon. To our surprise we had a private tour!
The tour included an introductory video and an exhibit which includes all the letters between Rabbi Cohen and Frank Lloyd Wright, and a walking tour through the main sanctuary and the lower level smaller sanctuary. Our docent was very knowledgeable and it was a very enjoyable tour.
Beth Sholom Synagogue was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s last works. He actually passed away while the project was under construction. The main architectural feature of the building is a double-walled translucent roof structure with corrugated glass panels on the exterior and plastic panels on the interior. This structure provides a variety of ever-changing lighting conditions that can be experienced by the users within. At night when the synagogue is in use, it glows. There are many other unique features and details including all of the custom designed door handles, the designed furniture pieces (many still have their original upholstery) and the star-shaped lighting on the lower level.
Beth Sholom Synagogue is located at 8231 Old York Road, Elkins Park, PA 19027 and you can learn more at their website Bethsholomcongregation.org and purchase tickets at https://www.bethsholompreservation.org/
I highly recommend checking this building out! And thank you Bart for this wonderful recommendation!
Sara is an Architect, Interior Designer and Sustainable designer who is a huge fan of Neil Zurcher’s One Tank Trips!