Sacred Sites Program

Two Grants Help Synagogue With Roof Restoration

Two Grants Help Synagogue With Roof Restoration
Two Grants Help Synagogue With Roof Restoration
-Hebrew Tabernacle Synagogue
Two Grants Help Synagogue With Roof Restoration
Two Grants Help Synagogue With Roof Restoration
-Hebrew Tabernacle Synagogue Interior Sanctuary Dome
Two Grants Help Synagogue With Roof Restoration
Two Grants Help Synagogue With Roof Restoration
-Flat Roof Leak
Two Grants Help Synagogue With Roof Restoration
Two Grants Help Synagogue With Roof Restoration
-Parapet Before
Two Grants Help Synagogue With Roof Restoration
Two Grants Help Synagogue With Roof Restoration
-Loose parging removed, parapets prepped for cladding
Two Grants Help Synagogue With Roof Restoration
Two Grants Help Synagogue With Roof Restoration
-Parapet Cladding Underway

January 2015

A Winter’s Tale: Hebrew Tabernacle launches Roof Restoration

Washington Heights synagogue Hebrew Tabernacle bravely launched roof restoration work this December—installing new flashing at copings and parapets just before this week’s blizzard. More substantial roof replacement work will continue this spring, thanks to two Conservancy grants.

In what is a true, only-in-New York story—of buildings adapting to the frequently changing needs of a neighborhood, and religious institutions moving with their members—the building was designed in 1931-1932 by Cherry & Matz to be the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist. The synagogue was founded in Harlem in 1906 and moved to Washington Heights in 1923. Its two prior sites are now churches.

Hebrew Tabernacle purchased the former Fourth Church of Christ Scientist in 1973. The buff-brick and limestone building is three stories with massing defined by a series of setbacks, typical of the Art Deco style. New York City has only a handful of Art Deco style religious buildings. This design, while aesthetically striking against the more typical red-brick apartment blocks in the neighborhood, presents long-term waterproofing challenges. The building’s small, flat, set back roofs are difficult to see, access, and maintain.

That’s where the Conservancy’s help can be vital. No donor wants to put his or her name on a rooftop parapet, or on an invisible section of roof. But maintaining these areas is vital to keeping water out of the building, and away from glorious stained-glass skylights and pipe organs. The Conservancy identified this important building in 2010, as part of our citywide synagogue survey, and funded preparation of a National Register Nomination by architectural historian Tony Robins in 2011.

The National Register listing made the building eligible for a $25,000 Conservancy administered, “E-Z” Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone grant in 2012. Via this initial grant, preservation project manager Mary Kay Judy defined a scope to address priority-roofing repairs. Sleszynski Corp., a New York City-based general contractor, submitted the winning bid for the project. A second, $25,000 Sacred Sites Jewish Heritage Fund grant in the June 2014 round of funding helped ensure that the scope was realized.

The Hebrew Tabernacle hosts diverse cultural programs and outreach activities including art exhibitions, an annual film screening and review class, ESL conversation classes, and discussion groups for seniors. The synagogue’s sanctuary has wonderful acoustics and sight lines, seats 650, and is rented to theater, opera, and choral groups.