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On the Market: 155 Richmond Avenue

One of Buffalo’s earliest synagogues is for sale. The stunning Temple Beth El at 155 Richmond Avenue has a $449,000 asking price and is being listed by Hunt Commercial’s Christopher J. Malachowski.

From the listing:

Magnificent church for sale in the Elmwood District, near Allentown and Symphony Circle. May be converted to apartment or kept as large gathering space. On site parking. Many classic features still remain. Property in good condition.

The complex has 12,469 sq.ft. of space and has an interesting history:

A Brief History of Temple Beth El – The First Jewish Synagogue
An excerpt from “Houses of Worship: A Guide to the Religious Architecture of Buffalo, New York,” by James Napora. Master of Architecture Thesis.

The first Jewish congregation in Buffalo, and the first one between New York City and Chicago, was founded at a meeting of twelve men on May 9, 1847.

With many of the original members no longer active, changes began to occur within the congregation. In 1880 the first English sermon was preached and by the end of the century, men and women were allowed to sit together in the same pews. In 1906, under the leadership of Charles Polakoff, the search for a new location commenced. Polakoff had suggested that the new building be located on the west side of the city. But the majority of the congregation lived on the East Side and insisted that the new building be kept within walking distance of the old one.

On May 10, 1910 the congregation held their final service in the Elm Street synagogue. While the new building was being constructed, they met in the home of Joseph Saperston at 179 Fargo and then in a hall on Grant at Ferry. They broke ground on March 24, 1910, and on July 24 Joseph Saperston placed the cornerstone. They dedicated their $100,000 house of worship on September 10, 1911. The architect was Howard Osgood Holland.

The brick building, with its copper dome, is a familiar landmark on Richmond Avenue. A broad flight of stairs leads to the main entrance doors, the lintels of which feature symbols of the Jewish faith. The auditorium is capped by a dome with an art glass skylight in its center.

The congregation worshipped in the building until the changing demographics of the congregation forced them to consider a new location. In December 1960, anticipating the move to their new site on Eggert Road at Sheridan, they ended Friday evening services. They celebrated their final service on Richmond Avenue on October 9, 1966.

From the Buffalo Architecture and History website.

The site is currently owned by the Greater Emmanuel Temple Church.

Get Connected: Christopher J. Malachowski, Hunt Commercial, 716.880.1914

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

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  • paulb

    Beautiful. The asking price seems on the lowside, no?

    • robert biniszkiewicz

      The asking price is far less than building such a space new, but it’s very hard to re-use a church for something else. The church at Richmond and Ferry sold for $75k before much rehab money was poured into it (and the church had been in good condition). It’s very expensive to maintain a big old church/synagogue, and very expensive to convert to anything else. The market is small. Even churches don’t want old churches. It’s much less expensive to utilize an old supermarket (like Darius Pridgen’s and others).

      • paulb

        Ahhh… I see.

        And it occurs to me that the fixed expenses of it just sitting there unoccupied: property tax, minimal heat & electric, etc. is definitely multiple thousands of dollars per month.

      • Rand503

        Pshaw. Someone should take the time to research all the churches and temples around the world that have been converted to something else, with photos. I know for a fact many have been converted to condos, apartments, community spaces, a bookstore, theater, and a school. A quick search on instagram shows many of them.

        • robert biniszkiewicz

          those are very expensive conversions, Rand. But if you see a business opportunity, you should jump. This place is in good shape. That’s a lot of space for a modest asking price.

  • Ivan Putski Jr

    where did they get those ceiling fans, Walgreens? they’re tiny I can’t imagine they even do anything

    • LongGoneeee

      It’s the zoolander line from Home Depot.

  • LongGoneeee

    Am I the only one who sees an awesome opportunity for an office space? If the foundation would allow for it you could build a second floor structure around the perimeter of the main room that keeps the center open. Would be a great use of open space and light. Also leads to an easier conversion of the existing office space that could simply be updated.

    That said, I do hope there is the opportunity to reuse the stained glass and temple altar woodwork somewhere else. Have been in several suburban temples that simply don’t have these things.

    • paulb

      Does parking exist there to support that sqft of office space?

  • Vandra

    What always strikes me when I notice this building is how grand it is, yet wedged between typical houses on Richmond. It’s a shame they couldn’t get a corner lot when they built it to give it some breathing room and space to appreciate it. Hopefully a good use can be found.

    • jonny99

      yeah it is out of scale, it should be demolished so something that blends better into the neighborhood can be built

      • Vandra

        Seriously, if they tried to build that today imagine the neighborhood response.

  • Bludog

    new school or K thru 5, montessori ish? Or is it big enough for a gut job and sporting facility for the neighborhood

  • Captain Picard

    What a great opportunity. Buyer would likely need cash, but what a great space for adaptive re-use or even alternative religious use. Location can’t be beat.

  • HousingBubble2

    Gut the place and make it some kind of indoor playground/day care/ entertainment center for children to run around. There is virtually nothing that is kid friendly in the Elmwood village, playground or a safe place for children to congregate. Everything is craft beer, pizza, hair salon and mobile phone stores…..oh and lets not forget the avg home sales price in this neighborhood is now $300,000 plus. There must be some nice families close by.