10 architecturally significant St. Louis synagogues

The former B’nai El synagogue, located on Flad Avenue in the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis city

By Bill Motchan, Special to the Jewish Light

Following is a list of 10 local synagogues that represent significant architectural works. The first eight also embody the spirit of adaptive reuse. Three (Bais Abraham, CRC and Kol Rinah) are still active synagogues.

Bais Abraham

6910 Delmar Boulevard

Formerly: Tpheris Israel Chevra Kadisha

Built: 1920s

Architect: Unknown

Style: Classical

Notable design elements:Prominent stone façade and impressive stained glass allowing natural light into sanctuary.

Kol Rinah

829 N. Hanley Road

Formerly: Shaare Zedek

Built: 1950

Architect: Bernard Bloom

Style: Mid-century Modern

Notable design elements: The streamlined, rounded corners and large front-facing representation of the Torah are the most prominent design elements.

Washington University

560 Music Center

560 Trinity Avenue 

Formerly: Shaare Emeth

Built: 1930

Architect: Unknown

Style: Art deco

Notable design elements: Prominent bas-relief imagery and “SHAARE EMETH” on façade facing Delmar Boulevard, with imposing brick and stonework.

Center of Contemporary Arts (COCA)

524 Trinity Avenue

Formerly: B’nai Amoona Congregation

Built: 1950

Architect: Eric Mendelsohn

Style: Mid-century Modern

Notable design elements: The building has 12 windows in the sanctuary, which may suggest Mendelsohn created a numerical reference to the 12 tribes of Israel.

Angelic Temple of Deliverance

5001 Washington Boulevard

Formerly: Temple Israel

Built: 1907

Architect: Barnett, Haynes & Barnett

Style: Corinthian Neoclassical

Notable design elements: Corinthian columns made of Caen stone give the building a serious-looking, judicial appearance.

Missouri History Museum and Research Center

225 S. Skinker Boulevard

Formerly: United Hebrew Congregation

Built: 1927

Architect: Maritz and Young, with consulting architect Gabriel Ferrand

Style: Byzantine

Notable design elements: The 82-foot diameter dome in the reading room (previously sanctuary) was inspired by the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. At the time of its dedication, UH was one of the three largest synagogues in the country.

Temple Apartments

3666 Flad Avenue

Formerly: B’nai El (1905-1944)

Built: Dedicated in 1906

Architect: John L. Wees

Style: Romanesque Revival

Notable design elements: The building’s Romanesque and Byzantine architecture make it stand out in this residential neighborhood just west of the Compton Hill Water Tower. Although it’s now an apartment building, one look at the outside immediately tells you it was at one time a religious building.

Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church

4570 Page Boulevard

Formerly: Shaare Zedek

Built: 1913

Architect: Unknown

Style: Classical

Notable design elements: large, semicircular gables and large lunettes with glazed opalescent glass Star of David.

The following are much newer, but are significant architectural works—designed by a founding member of CRC (Andy Trivers), and in the case of UH, the final design of important American architect Pietro Belluschi.

Central Reform Congregation

5020 Waterman Avenue

Built: 2000

Architect: Andy Trivers

Style: Modern

Notable design elements: When members walk in the entrance, they encounter the oneg area, a gathering place. This was a deliberate design strategy, because the philosophy of the congregation is all about community.

United Hebrew Congregation

13788 Conway Road

Built: 1990

Architect: Pietro Belluschi

Style: Modernist

Notable design elements: The exterior arch on the east side of the sanctuary and the series of three vertical windows mirror the same components of the former UH building (now Missouri History Museum Library) on Skinker Boulevard.