Friday, February 22, 2008

No. 116 - Wilshire Boulevard Temple

Wilshire Boulevard Temple

Wilshire Boulevard Temple
1929 – A.M. Edelman, S. Tilden Norton, David C. Allison
3663 Wilshire Boulevard – map
Declared: 3/21/73

The history of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, the oldest Jewish congregation in Los Angeles, stretches back to 5622 – or, uh, 1862 – when Joseph Newmark first obtained a state charter for the Orthodox Congregation B’nai B’rith.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple

In 1873, eleven years after its founding, B’nai B’rith built its first synagogue on the east side of Broadway (then Fort) between Second and Third. In 1896, the congregation moved into its new home at 9th and Hope.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple

Cornerstone-laying ceremonies for the congregation’s third and current home occurred March 10, 1929, seven years after ground-breaking. This new Byzantine Revival synagogue was designed primarily by Abraham M. Edelman (who built the 9th and Hope synagogue and whose dad, Abraham Wolf Edelman, was the congregation’s – and Los Angeles’s – first Rabbi) and S. Tilden Norton with David C. Allison of Allison & Allison advising. With its new home, B’nai B’rith changed its name to Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple

Now, the Temple was locked up tight the day I was there, so I didn’t get to see, along with the enormous dome (135-foot tall, 100-foot wide, and inlaid with mosaic), those giant murals by Hugo Ballin. Surving Warner Bros Jack, Harry, and Abe Warner financed Ballin to create the Temple’s “precedent-shattering” murals in memory of non-surviving Warner Bros Sam and Milton (the latter not a WB partner). “Precedent–shattering” because having paintings in a house of worship went against Jewish tradition. By this time, of course, the congregation had been Reform for a while.

Ballin’s work consists of 320-foot long, seven-foot tall murals depicting key moments in Jewish history. See some pictures of them here.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple

Also to see: the Kimball organ with 4,100 pipes, costing a cool $40,000 back in 1929. You have to wonder how different things would’ve been had it been just a few months later, after October 24th.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple

The $2.5 million-dollar Temple opened to a three-day dedication celebration beginning on June 7, 1929, overseen by Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin, the congregation’s spiritual leader since 1919. Magnin went on to lead Wilshire Boulevard Temple forever, dying in 1984, four years after the Temple’s block was officially named Edgar F. Magnin Square.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple


“Hebrews Lay Corner-Stone” Los Angeles Times; Mar 11, 1929, p. A2

Arthur Millier “Hebrew Traditions Broken in Edifice Decorations” Los Angeles Times; Jun 2, 1929, p. C13

“Dedication of Temple Concluded” Los Angeles Times; Jun 10, 1929, p. A8

John Dart “Rabbi Magnin Nears 90, Goes Like 60” Los Angeles Times; May 28, 1980, p. B3

Up next: 2218 South Harvard Boulevard Residence

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