Flickrfan: NYC – LES: Bialystoker Synagogue
January 20, 2010
Photographed by wallyg
The Bialystoker Synagogue was organized in 1865, originally on Hester Street, before moving to Orchard Street, and then settling in its current location on Willet Street, more recently renamed Bialystoker Place.
The congregation is housed in a fieldstone building built in 1826 in the late Federal style. The building is made of Manhattan schist from a quarry on nearby Pitt Street. The exterior is marked by three windows over three doors framed with round arches, a low flight of brownstone steps, a low pitched pedimented roof with a lunette window and a wooden cornice. It was first designed as the Willett Street Methodist Episcopal Church. It is one of only four early-19th century fieldstone religious buildings surviving from the late Federal period in Lower Manhattan.
In the corner of the women’s gallery there is a small break in the wall that leads to a ladder going up to an attic, lit by two windows. Legend has it that the synagogue was a stop on the Underground Railroad and that runaway slaves found sanctuary in this attic.
In 1905, the congregation, at that time composed chiefly of Polish immigrants from the province of Bialystok, purchased the building to serve as a synagogue. During the Great Depression, a decision was made to beautify the main sanctuary. In 1988 the Synagogue restored the interior to its original facade, and the former Hebrew school building was renovated and reopened as The Daniel Potkorony Building.
National Historic Register #72000861 (1972)