3.2 New Orleans, Louisiana
Temple Sinai, Carondelet Street, between Delord and Calliope streets
Charles Lewis Hilger, architect, 1872
C. T. Photochrom, publisher; no date, but postmarked July 16, 1913
Temple Sinai of New Orleans, a striking Romanesque Revival synagogue, became an instant city landmark when it opened its doors in 1872. With its two tall towers reaching a height of 115 feet, the building was visible from many directions. It had ornate stained glass windows, then a newly popular feature for synagogues.
An 1885 guide to New Orleans described the building this way:
Temple Sinai, Jewish, a graceful and most imposing structure . . . is, without a doubt, the most beautiful edifice of the kind in the United States, combining grandeur with simplicity so appropriately that the beholder is charmed.
The time from conception to dedication of the synagogue was remarkably short—testimony to the drive and resources of the Jewish community of New Orleans in the decade following the Civil War. On July 3, 1870, 37 people met at the office of clothier S. A. Seeskind to start a Reform Jewish congregation. That same year, 109 founding members ratified the constitution of the new congregation, which then raised the $140,000 needed to build the temple.
The New Orleans Times reported that “over five thousand persons were present” at the cornerstone laying ceremony. The building was dedicated less than a year later, on November 13, 1872, attended by citizens of every faith. After the dedication the community celebrated with a large festive ball graced by “almost every type of rich, luxuriant beauty which makes our city famous far and wide for its female loveliness.”
In 1928, Temple Sinai’s congregation moved uptown to St. Charles Avenue and Calhoun Street. The membership sold the 1872 building to the Knights of Pythias and built a new temple. In the 1930s, the Motion Picture Advertising Company purchased the former temple for its headquarters. Its demolition in 1977 sparked a vibrant historic preservation movement in New Orleans.
For more images see:
Coleman, William Head. Historical Sketch Book and Guide to New Orleans and Environs. New York: Will H. Coleman, 1885 (see p. 69).