by Paula Bosse
Above, the new, not-yet-landscaped Temple Emanu-El in 1957, at the northeast corner of Hillcrest and Northwest Highway; this aerial view is looking north from Northwest Highway. (The view today, via Google Earth, is here.)
In 1952 Temple Emanu-El’s congregation purchased eighteen rolling acres of Caruth farmland from Earle Clark Caruth, at what was then described as “the northern limits of Dallas.” This was after a lengthy period of consideration by leaders of the congregation over whether they should accept the gift of developer and artist Sylvan T. Baer of eleven “wooded and rolling” acres in Oak Lawn along Turtle Creek which he had offered as the site of a new temple. Even though Baer’s attractive site was more centrally located than their long-time South Dallas location (a definite bonus, as the congregation wished to move closer to the North Dallas area where most of their members now lived), the Turtle Creek site was ultimately deemed to be too small, too far from the North Dallas area they preferred, and too restrictive as far as the ability to finance construction. (Though rejected as a religious site, Baer’s very pretty land eventually became the home of the Dallas Theater Center.)
Temple Emanu-El — home to the largest reform Jewish congregation in the South — hired Dallas architects Howard R. Meyer and Max M. Sandfield to design their new home (with William W. Wurster of the University of California serving as consultant); the project was announced in 1954, and dedication ceremonies of the finished building(s) took place in February, 1957, probably around the time the photos below and above were taken.
Below, the first Temple Emanu-El, built in 1876 at Commerce and Field, designed by architect Carl G. DeGrote. It was dedicated May 28, 1876 (read the extensive coverage of the ceremonies as printed in the Dallas Herald here — click “zoom” to read). After a move to their next location, the old temple became the University of Dallas Medical Department in 1900; it was demolished around 1906.
Later, as a medical school (DHS photo via NIH)
The second site was at the corner of S. Ervay and St. Louis, in The Cedars, built around 1898, designed by architects J. Reilly Gordon, H. A. Overbeck, and Roy Overbeck. Following another move in the ‘teens, the building was converted into a Unitarian Church; it was demolished in 1961 to make room for R. L. Thornton Freeway.
The congregation moved into its third location about 1917: a new Hubbell & Greene-designed building at South Boulevard and S. Harwood, where they remained until the move to the new Hillcrest location. This building was demolished in 1972.
The congregation officially moved to their fourth (and current) location, in North Dallas, at the beginning of 1957, led by Rabbi Levi A. Olan.
Sources & Notes
First three photos by Life magazine photographer Joe Scherschel, © Time Inc. More than 100 photos from this assignment can be found here and here. Supposedly there was a cover-story on the new building, but all I’ve found is this one-page photo-with-caption from the Feb. 25, 1957 issue. If anyone has info on a lengthier Life story, please let me know.
Drawing and article announcing the new Temple Emanu-El are from the Texas Jewish Post (Sept. 30, 1954), here. (UNT’s Portal to Texas History has fully-scanned issues of the DFW-centric Texas Jewish Post — 1950-2011 — accessible here. All issues are searchable, and all have articles, photos, and ads — it is a fantastic resource.)
Read a description of the just-completed first Dallas synagogue from the Dallas Herald (May 28, 1876), here (column 4); read the surprisingly lengthy coverage of the official opening ceremonies, which includes a history of the events which led to the building’s construction, in the May 30, 1876 Herald, here (columns 1-4). (To read the articles, click the “zoom” tab above the scanned page.)
Read the Temple Emanu-El entry in the Handbook of Texas here.
The history page of the Temple Emanu–El website is here.
Head to the Dallas Morning News archives to read about the art and architecture of Temple Emanu-El in the article “A Temple of Art, Architecture — The Forms Merge In Well-Designed Emanu-El” by architecture critic David Dillon (DMN, Dec. 24, 1984).
A comprehensive history of Temple Emanu-El and Jewish life in Dallas (well-illustrated with photographs) can be found in the book A Light in the Prairie, Temple Emanu-El of Dallas, 1872-1997 by Gerry Cristol (Fort Worth: TCU Press, 1998).
All images are larger when clicked.
Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.