Ohr Shalom Synagogue’s historic preservation requires community assistance
SAN DIEGO (Press Release)–The earth is moving at Third Avenue and Laurel Street. Not as a result of seismic activity, but of cranes digging and dirt being lifted away for the much-anticipated renovation of the Ohr Shalom Synagogue’s historic building in the Park West neighborhood of San Diego.
Probably very few citizens realize the importance of this San Diego landmark sitting just a few blocks from Balboa Park. The building, designed by renowned San Diego architect William Wheeler, is one of the foremost examples of Mediterranean Revival, an American architectural style popular around the mid-1920s.
But the 85-year-old building has been showing its wrinkles for quite some time now, and renovation was long overdue. After lengthy input from congregants, Ohr Shalom’s leaders were ready to restore this San Diego architectural jewel to its original beauty. After extensive planning, Ohr Shalom’s Renovation Committee started tackling the $4.2 million project at the beginning of this year. The work was funded largely by congregation members, and a few neighbors who have recognized the importance of preserving the landmark for generations to come.
The congregation has raised more than $3.6 million to date, a sizable amount considering there are only 350 members. Now, more than half way through the renovation process, Ohr Shalom is turning to neighboring businesses, individuals and the community for financial support to complete construction. Through the “Make it your Business to Make History” support campaign, Ohr Shalom is looking to raise the final $600,000 needed to complete the project. While the campaign is aimed at businesses or corporations and will reward supporters with marketing and advertising opportunities, individuals and families are encouraged to give as well.
It was the Beth Israel congregation that initially commissioned architect William H. Wheeler with the construction of this building. The result was a synagogue with a classic Moorish-style dome suspended high above a majestic sanctuary and stained glass windows with medieval, Islamic and Jewish motifs. The building was occupied by Beth Israel for 75 years.
Ohr Shalom took possession in 2002, after the J. Block Companies – the developer that bought the property from Beth Israel — relinquished the sanctuary, school building and social hall. Thus, the historical place’s future was secured with a commitment made by Ohr Shalom to preserve the landmark.
The scope of the renovation includes a complete repair of the façade, structural seismic upgrades to comply with today´s codes, and removing the wood paneling lining the halls to reveal the original stucco. The ceiling dome has been refinished, the old water marks are gone. Swinerton Builders, commissioned by the Ohr Shalom congregation, even devised a way to prevent water intrusion while complying with the demand for historical fidelity.
All work was approved by the Historical Resources Board at the City Planning Department and is in compliance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The stained-glass windows were shipped to Iowa for specialized renovation and replicas of the raised-paneled doors are being custom-made by hand in California. Zagrodnik + Thomas Architects LLP and Swinerton Builders are in charge of the restoration project.
When completed, the social hall is expected to provide a large attractive space to hold community lectures and concerts, celebrations, with meeting space available to the entire community for activities designed to support the neighboring organizations in Banker’s Hill, Hillcrest and Park West.
For more information on the “Make it your Business to Make History” campaign, contact Melissa Costa-Manion at (619) 379-4579. For more information on Ohr Shalom, visit http://www.ohrshalom.org.
Preceding provided by Ohr Shalom Synagogue