6.8 Greenville, Mississippi
Hebrew Union Congregation, 504 Main Street
Harry A. Overbeck, architect, 1906

Steger-Holmes Company, Commercial Stationers, Greenville, Mississippi, publisher; no date; also on the back, “Printed in Germany.”

The lovely classical-style synagogue shown above is one of three similar Reform temples built in towns across Mississippi all within a few years. Two of these—in Natchez and Greenville—were designed by the same architect, Henry A. Overbeck. His design draws from a long history of aedicule-front buildings, including pagan temples and shrines, as well as many contemporary commemorative monuments and high-design mausolea, where freestanding columns support a pediment. Though not an especially large building (compared to the size of the house next door), the proportions provide a sense of stately monumentality, and the massing creates a three-step rise from the low vestibule off the main entrance to the pediment, set upon stately columns, and finally to the drum and dome, which rises above all. The sanctuary consists of one box-like room, well lit by large round-headed windows filled with stained glass. On the exterior, the linked arches of the side windows create an arcade-like rhythm.

Inside, a central aisle leads on axis to a recessed bimah and ark area surmounted by a prominent organ loft. The wooden ark is comprised of a central arch flanked by classical applied pilaster; a quiet echo of the facade articulation. The new building had a sanctuary, religious school facilities, and a meeting hall.

The spur to build coincided with the hiring in 1901 of Rabbi Abram. He raised funds for the building, a task that took until 1906, when the new synagogue was built at a cost of $30,000. The dedicatory services were held on October 26, 1906. Rabbi Sol Kory of Vicksburg gave the opening prayer.

Hebrew Union Congregation, Greenville, Mississippi, was built in 1880–81 as a private school. The two towers were most likely added not long after when members decided the structure would serve as their synagogue. Image from Leo Turitz and Evelyn Turitz, Jews in Early Mississippi (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1983), 66.

Hebrew Union Congregation was formed in 1879, and, in 1880, congregants began to build on land given to them by a wealthy plantation owner. The building was designed to serve primarily as a private school and only secondarily as a worship space. In October of 1881, the Hebrew Union School was formed.

In 1882, the congregation purchased from two of its members a lot at the corner of Washington and Locust streets. Soon after, the congregation remodeled their existing school building into a synagogue rather than build a new structure on the recently acquired lot. Presumably, that is when the two impressive tripartite towers were added. The congregation used this converted school building until 1905, when it was moved to Campbell Street and divided into two residences. The 1906 temple was then erected on the same site as the earlier structure.