National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Temple Beth-El

Creator: United States Department of the Interior National Park Service
Subjects: Historic Designation, Corporate Records
Description: Description of the religious interior and exterior structures inside of the Temple Beth-El. Also known as the Lighthouse Cathedral. Located at 8801 Woodward Avenue at Gladstone in Detroit, Michigan.
Format: Text/jpg
Original Format: Other
Language: English
Rights Management: Temple Beth-El
Contributing Institution:
Contributor: Carlton Rolle
National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Temple Beth-ElNational Register of Historic Places Inventory – Temple Beth-El
Transcript: The structure is three stories high with dimensions of 140 feet by 240 feet. It is a rectangular, flat-roofed, Classical-style, limestone structure built in 1921-22. The Woodward Avenue side is the most notable elevation. It is spanned by a shallow. eight column, Ionic portico sheltering three sets of entrance doors with simple classical surrounds. The rest of the walls are sheathed in plain masonry relieved only by the denticulated cornice.

The only other architecturally articulated elevation faces Gladstone Avenue. A range of tall narrow windows are projected out from the main block of the building by the bold, plain piers which enframe them. At the rear is a secondary entrance.

The interior includes numerous plainly finished class rooms, lounges, offices, meeting rooms, and service facilities in addition to the main auditorium. This latter is a vast, domed space with curving pews arranged in a semi-circle on a sloping floor with a balcony across the rear. The focus of the room is the raised platform that now contains a choir and pulpit. The ceiling and walls are ornamented with frescoes depicting events and personages from Jewish history. Behind the pulpit platform is the raised choir loft backed by a screen of eight Ionia columns.

Specific dates: 1921-22
Architect: Albert Kahn (1869-1942) of Detroit

Albert Kahn designed the third Temple Beth-El for his Reform Jewish congregation to replace the earlier temple located closer to the downtown area. The temple cornerstone was laid on October 5, 1921. This monumental structure remained the house of worship for Michigan's oldest Jewish congregation until 1974 when a new temple was constructed in Birmingham, Michigan. The former temple was then sold to the Light¬house Tabernacle. This third Temple Beth-El is notable as a major monument of early twentieth-century, Classical Revival, synagogue architecture in the United States.