1876: A New Synagogue in Washington

Dedicated on June 9, 1876 in the presence of President Ulysses S. Grant, the historic Adas Israel synagogue is the oldest purpose-built synagogue in the Washington region.

The congregation – the second established in Washington, D.C. – was comprised of several families of predominantly German descent who had migrated to Washington before, during, and after the Civil War as the formerly sleepy city and its population expanded. Their story, like the stories of the generations to follow, involved making a home within the nation’s capital.

By the 1940s, the former Orthodox synagogue housed a BBQ joint!

1910-1969: From Religion to Retail

When the growing congregation built a larger sanctuary at Sixth and I Streets, NW in 1908, the historic synagogue building’s story continued, following the changing nature of the surrounding multi-ethnic neighborhood. Over the years the building hosted several houses of worship, including St. Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church, and retailers.

In the late 1960s, when plans for the new Metro threatened the synagogue, the Jewish Historical Society sprang into action. With help from the local and federal governments, the Society moved the building three blocks to the corner of Third & G Streets, NW in 1969.

The Society restored and maintained the synagogue, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as a historic site and the centerpiece of activities.

2016: On the Road Again

As part of the Capitol Crossing development project, in 2016 the historic synagogue was moved 50 feet into the middle of Third Street.

The synagogue moved for its third and final time in 2019 to the corner of Third & F Streets, where it will become the heart of the new museum, a witness and active participant in its ever-changing neighborhood.

Related Program

Discover the many lives of the historic Adas Israel Synagogue as Jonathan Edelman, curatorial associate, reveals the early history of DC’s Jewish community, the synagogue’s historic details, and more. Followed by Q&A with Edelman and CJM President Stuart Zuckerman.

Presented by the DC Preservation League as part of their program series about sacred spaces.