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Home > Our City > Buffalo My City > Buffalo My City Watercolors > 24-A Temple Beth Zion (1992)

24-A Temple Beth Zion (1992)

Narrative by - David M. Rote
(Narratives are copyrighted)

The original congregation of Temple Beth Zion was organized in 1850 and in 1865 a temple was dedicated on Niagara Street. In 1890 an imposing new temple with grand Medina sandstone walls and the country's largest wooden dome was finished and opened for worship at 599 Delaware Avenue next to the present Twentieth Century Club building which was built in 1896. The United States Food & Administration building is located at 599 Delaware today. This temple, architecturally designed in a Byzantine style with beautiful interior frescoing, stood until a disastrous fire destroyed the building in 1961.

A determined congregation strongly supported the building of a new temple which was completed and dedicated in April of 1967 on a new site at 805 Delaware Avenue. Architects Harrison and Abramowitz, who planned both the United Nations Headquarters and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, designed the new temple's sanctuary walls in the form of 10 scallops representing the Ten Commandments. The great east and west stained-glass windows were created by Ben Shahn and in this view of the temple, artist Dr. V. Roger Lalli is seen absorbed in studying Shahn's west window with its representation of the 150th Psalm.

For many years, as part of the annual Erie County Masonic Breakfast proceedings, Buffalo area Masons attended services at Temple Beth Zion and nearby Westminster Presbyterian Church and then marched down Delaware Avenue to the Statler Hilton Hotel for breakfast and fellowship.

In 1894, Delaware Avenue was completely paved from downtown Buffalo to the Tonawandas - one of the longest paved thoroughfares in the country before the turn of the century. Many of Buffalo's finest residences and houses of worship were built during this time and the Delaware Avenue Historic District encompasses these homes along the west side of the avenue from North Street to Bryant Street. Directly across Delaware Avenue from the temple is the former home of Seymour H. Knox and next door is the Clement house, designed by E.B. Green in the style of an English manor house. Many of these homes have been successfully converted into various corporate and institutional headquarters.