6.2 Montgomery, Alabama
Temple Beth Or, 103 Clayton Street, SW corner of Clayton and Sayre streets
Architect unknown, 1902

LeB on Jewelry Company, Montgomery, Alabama, publisher; no publication date, but postmarked March 11, 1906 or 1908

This postcard shows the second building of the venerable Montgomery Jewish congregation, Temple Beth Or (House of Light). The cornerstone of the imposing classical-style structure, which replaced a handsome mid-century brick synagogue at Catoma and Church streets, was laid on January 1, 1901. The synagogue was completed the following year. In 1900, the congregation had begun negotiations to sell its original building, located only a block away, to a church. Despite the long history in America of churches and synagogues changing buildings, not all congregants were happy at the prospect of seeing their old home servicing a different faith. By 2021, more than a century later, that former synagogue was still a church.

Despite tensions, planning for the new building proceeded, and the cornerstone was laid amid pomp and gaiety. In the procession from the old building to the new one, congregants carried Torah scrolls and sang songs as they walked. At the synagogue site, the mayor of Montgomery and a Baptist minister took part in the service, along with the congregation president, David Weil. The synagogue was dedicated on June 6, 1902.

Designed in the increasingly popular classical style, the new building was substantially larger than the old one. Filling a whole city block, the synagogue still faced Clayton Street, where a wide flight of steps led to the monumental entrance through a columnar portico. Four tall Tuscan Doric columns pressed against the facade wall; between them were rectangular doorways and round arched windows.

Corner square–plan stair towers framed the portico facade of Temple Beth Or. These were topped by open belvederes surmounted by small domes. A larger dome was set over the sanctuary. The sides of the sanctuary were built as big window walls, with exterior pediments similar to that of the main facade, supported by applied pilasters which separated the large, arched windows.

The building was renovated around 1918 and a kitchen added in 1926. The congregation departed in 1960 when a new synagogue was built in Old Cloverdale, on Narrow Lane Road, and the former sanctuary was subsequently demolished.

See photos of the three buildings at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, Digital Collections: http://digital.archives.alabama.gov/cdm/search/collection/photo/searchterm/Synagogues/field/subjec/mode/all/conn/and/order/nosort.