Probably the most popular style of synagogue architecture in Pittsburgh a century ago was what we might call Jewish Romanesque, with the round arches typical of Romanesque architecture along with some elements taken from traditional European Jewish architecture to make it clear that this is not a Christian church. Here is a good but endangered example of that style.
It was built in 1923 or 1924 on Margaretta Street, now East Liberty Boulevard, and its members knew it familiarly as the Margaretta Street Shul. (Addendum: The architect was Ralph Friedberg.1) The congregation sold the building in 1996 and moved to Monroeville, where it withered away a few years later. For a while after that this was a Baptist church; but it seems to be vacant now. That is the danger. Even in the most prosperous neighborhood, it can be hard to find a use for an old church or synagogue. This part of East Liberty is far from the worst neighborhood, but it has not reached the prosperity of Highland Park to the north or the newly lively core of East Liberty to the south. If the neighborhood stays as it is, this building will probably simply decay and eventually have to be demolished. If the neighborhood prospers, it will probably be demolished to make way for something else.
Structurally, the building seems quite sound. But the details are suffering, notably the crumbling parapet, which is one of the distinctive and remarkable features of the façade.
Some interesting history of the congregation is in this article in the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle.
- Assuming the name was reported correctly in the American Contractor for October 13, 1923: “Synagogue: $120,000. 1 sty. & bas. 70×95. Margarotta [sic] & St. Clair sts. Archt. Ralph Friedberg, Farmers Bank bldg. Owner The Congregation of the Adah, Jeshurum Hausman, chrmn. of comm., 720 N. Negley av. Brk. Gen. contr. let to Harry Rubenstein, 601 N. Euclid av. Carp. by gen contr. by day work. Htg. to Reliance Htg. Co., 3610 5th av. Plmg. to Moss & Blakeley, Climax & Beltzhoover st., South Side. On 1st sty. brk. wk.” Considering how garbled the rest of the entry is, we have less than complete confidence in the architect’s name. ↩︎