4.7 Houston, Texas
Congregation Adath Yeshurun, corner of Preston and Hamilton streets
Architect unknown, 1905 (demolished 1908)
International Post Card Company, New York, publisher; 1908; postmarked March 26, 1908
This is a rare photo of a building that stood for less than three years.

In 1895, the small Orthodox Adath Yeshurun (Congregation Israel) worshiped in a modest wood-frame church building at Preston and Hamilton streets. The Great Hurricane of 1900 damaged the structure but strengthened the congregation, which grew immediately with refugees from Galveston because that city was mostly destroyed. So even after repair, the church-turned-synagogue was too small for the expanded membership. The congregation borrowed $10,000 and built a larger brick building on the site. The new synagogue was dedicated on June 4, 1905.

The ceremony was described in an article in the Galveston Daily News, but little was said of the architecture except to note: “The synagogue was lighted by both gas and electricity during the services, although the house was amply windowed. The seats are very comfortable, and the gallery seats most advantageously arranged.” It was, in fact, a substantial, handsome building that was called “Byzantine” in style, but mostly included Romanesque design elements popular for a half century.

A front-gable sanctuary with a large rose window is proceeded by a four-arch entrance portico flanked by two blocky towers, which probably housed stairs to a women’s gallery. The roof line is decorated with Romanesque corbel tables and the towers are pierced by bifora windows. The building’s exotic appearance comes from the bulbous cupolas that cap the towers, which also have slender corner finials. The postcard view suggests a cross-gable, and this is expressed by a smaller side gable flanked by small open turrets. A large Magen David that fills the center of the rose window clearly identified the building as a synagogue, not a church.

Within a year of opening, however, the congregation faced eviction and sale of the synagogue to the Houston Belt and Terminal Company, which acquired the land to erect a new train station. Settling the expropriation, the property was appraised at $47,395 in June 1906. The congregation had to move and build again. In 1908, members dedicated their second building in three years, an impressive Moorish-style structure at Jackson and Walker streets that may have reused some of the interior furnishings from the demolished building