Preservation Issues

Conservancy Guides Historic Queens Synagogues Towards State, National Register Listing

A colorful mosaic by A. Raymond Katz and Vincent Foscato

Murals by Louis Pierre Rigal, who created lobby mosaics and murals at the Waldorf-Astoria and the Chanin Building, depict the following verse: "Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and as strong as a lion," from Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers

This week, the New York State Preservation Board recognized three synagogues nominated to the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places by The New York Landmarks Conservancy. Through its ongoing historic synagogue surveys of New York’s five boroughs, the Conservancy has identified dozens of landmark-quality synagogues and former synagogues in Brooklyn and Queens.

The Conservancy retained architectural historian Tony Robins to complete 10 National Register nominations, building on the Conservancy’s survey research and outreach to each congregation. The first three nominations have gone through, and are soon to be placed on the State and National Registers. They are:

Rego Park Jewish Center: A modernist synagogue designed by Frank Grad & Sons, built in 1948 to serve the fast-growing Jewish population of the area.

Astoria Center of Israel: One of the few surviving early 20th century synagogues in Queens, designed by architect Louis Allen Abramson and built in 1925-26 when the Jewish population of Queens was still relatively small.

Free Synagogue of Flushing: A 1927 Neo-Classical Revival synagogue designed by architect Maurice Courland, established as part of the “Free Synagogue” movement.

In addition to their handsome architecture, all three synagogues feature magnificent original liturgical art and decorative finishes: murals, mosaics, and stained glass by prominent artists and skilled studios. The draft nominations are available through the state historic preservation website.

The three synagogues comprise the only Queens nominations in the current State and National Register round. These will be followed shortly by the nomination of seven historic Brooklyn synagogues, anticipated this fall. The nomination of these historic synagogues will make the properties eligible for the Conservancy’s grant and loan programs, and highlight Queens’ and Brooklyn’s historic, and under-recognized built heritage.

Funding for this project was provided by the Preserve New York grant program of the Preservation League of New York State and the New York State Council on the Arts.