Back in December I attend a couple classes at Congregation Sherith Israel here in San Francisco aimed at teaching congregants and potential docents about the physical and historical aspects of the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Sharing the Beauty: History, art, and architecture of Sherith Israel class
- Sharing the Beauty: Religious symbols and worship environment of Sherith Israel class
Classes resumed on Sunday morning with local architect Arnie Lerner who gave us a tour of the interior of the synagogue from the perspective of architecture.
The outside of the building itself is masonry, made of brick covered with sand stone and a steel structure. In interior has a significant amount of painted plaster covering the walls, including up inside the dome. As we learned in a previous class the style of architecture is Beaux-Arts.
Most interesting to me was some of the changes over time and what had been restored. The massive rose window that can be seen from outside, and several of the stained glass windows, have been restored. I had never been up to see the rose window from the inside before, so this was a nice opportunity to take some pictures.
We also learned that the series of front doors had actually been replaced with steel doors sometime in the mid 20th century, with the wooden doors being kept in the partial basement. During a restoration several years ago the doors were brought out of storage and restored, which I’m sure was a vast improvement!
The building also recently had illuminated exit signs and emergency evacuation lighting installed a couple years ago in order to improve safety in the building.
In spite of the suriving the 1906 earthquake (and being one of the few major buildings in the city that did), the building is also undergoing a major seismic right now, were they’ve been working to further strengthen the building. Arnie brought along a core that had been drilled during the process of “core drilling” that is being used. He even brought along a piece of the core so we could get an idea of how big of a space they had to drill to insert the reinforcing rods.
“Core drilling: a type of vertical reinforcement of masonry walls that relies on drilling a continuous vertical core that is filled with steel reinforcing rods and grouting to resist in-plane shear and out-of-plane bending.” via The Seismic Retrofit of Historic Buildings
From there we then did a long walk around the building, going through the main sanctuary and up the stairs to where the organ is, where we were able to hear a bit more about the building interior.
I also had a nice opportunity to take some close up pictures of the stunning Moses at Yosemite window:
Amusingly, some have said that Moses looks like John Muir, which they say could actually be possible given his influence at the turn of the century when the windows were being produced.
Unfortunately due to the heavy rain we weren’t able to do a tour of the outside, so instead we took time to go up inside the dome, where I had been before but this was my first time during the day.
I have uploaded photos I took during the class here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157640737135955/
We have the rest of the month off, but I’m looking forward to the 2 classes coming up in March:
- 3/2 Stained Glass – Ian Berke
- 3/23 Organ – Jonathan Dimmock