Eight That Can’t Wait 2019: Temple Concord

910 Madison Street at University Avenue, Syracuse – National Register listed

Update, Fall 2020

The redevelopment plans for partial demolition and construction of a multi-story student apartment complex planned by Landmark Properties of Athens, Georgia have been moving through the city permitting and approval process. In winter 2020, the Common Council approved designation of Temple Concord as a local protected site, but stipulated protection only for the original temple building, not the connected 1920s or 1960s additions. The city Landmark Preservation Board has been working with the developer in its Certificate of Appropriateness application to mitigate impacts to the temple building and its setting. The city Board of Zoning Appeals is serving as lead agency in a SEQRA review begun this fall. The congregation still owns the property, since the sale is contingent on the developer receiving city approval for their project.

Rendering of the proposed student housing at Temple Concord (January 2020) For more on this project, see https://www.syracuse.com/business/2020/01/202-bed-student-apartments-proposed-at-historic-temple-concord-site-in-syracuse.html

Threats: Demolition, Redevelopment

Temple Concord, a prominent Classical Revival limestone building on the Syracuse University Hill, is home to Central New York’s oldest Jewish congregation. In 2019, the temple board voted to sell their property to a national developer of student housing, believing it was the best option for the long-term survival of the congregation. The developer’s plans have not yet been made public, but most likely will include demolition of the building complex. PACNY is listing Temple Concord on the 2019 Eight That Can’t Wait to urge the congregation and temple board to explore alternatives that will avoid demolition of a landmark significant to all of Central New York.

Temple Concord, ca. 2012 (Sam Gruber)

Temple Society of Concord traces is founding back to 1839, when German-speaking immigrants were drawn to upstate New York by the Erie Canal. In 1851, they built their first home on the corner of Harrison and Mulberry (State) Streets, which became part of a thriving Jewish community in Syracuse’s 15th ward. In 1907, the congregation purchased property at the east end of the ward near Syracuse University, and engaged Alfred E. Taylor of Syracuse and Arnold W. Brunner of New York City as architects. In 1911, the limestone temple with its prominent Doric portico was completed at a cost of approximately $100,000. According to architectural historian Sam Gruber, “The building is overtly classical, even to its hilltop setting which, with its solemn Greek Doric order gives the building an air of massive majesty beyond what its size might elsewhere elicit.” In 1929, the Social Hall and School wings, built in a similar Classical Revival style using the same limestone, were completed at the rear of the building. The last addition was a Mid-Century Modern school wing completed in 1960.

Temple Concord, ca. 2012. (Sam Gruber)

Today, Temple Concord is the last remaining Jewish congregation in the neighborhood, which has lost much of its population since World War II to suburban flight, urban renewal, and expansion of Syracuse University. The congregation is facing large repair costs for the 1960 school wing, but the 1911 and 1929 portions of the building are in good condition. While PACNY cannot judge the internal needs of the congregation, it does urges them to negotiate with the developer and the city to preserve the 1911 and 1929 portions of the building. The new development could be sited on the temple-owned empty lot to the south and the 1960 school wing and parking lot to the rear (east). Perhaps the congregation could secure a long-term lease of the temple and social hall/school wings from the developer and also make arrangements for use of additional space in the new building. These are some of many potential options that could preserve the significant parts of the building while helping to lighten the burden of building maintenance costs on the congregation.

Temple Concord and the 1929 school wing, showing empty lot to the south, 2019. (PACNY)

Sources: National Register documentation; News reports; Sam Gruber, “History [of Temple Concord] prepared for Sacred Sites tour, Sam Gruber, My Central New York blog, http://mycentralnewyork.blogspot.com/2012/07/temple-concord-installs-national.html

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