Suburban Philadelphia synagogue doubles as tourist attraction

    One of the last buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is a synagogue in Elkins Park, just north of the Philadelphia city line. The 1,100-seat sanctuary underneath a translucent pyramid roof did double duty as a religious building and a landmark of eccentric modernist architecture. The congregation has now built a visitor’s center to accommodate tourists.

    One of the last buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is a synagogue in Elkins Park, just north of the Philadelphia city line. The 1,100-seat sanctuary underneath a translucent pyramid roof did double duty as a religious building and a landmark of eccentric modernist architecture. The congregation has now built a visitor’s center to accommodate tourists.

    According to the preservation director at Beth Sholom synagogue, the building gets about 5,000 tourists a year. The congregation hopes to increase that number with its new visitor’s center, gift shop, and staff of volunteer tour guides.

    John Gallery of the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia says because the building had been open to tourists only erratically, the trip to the suburbs used to be daunting.

    Gallery: If you’re an architect and you’re coming to Philadelphia region and looking for interesting things – that building is near the top of your list. The fact that you’re going out to Elkins Park and don’t know whether you could get in is a handicap – opening it up is a great thing for the congregation to be doing.

    There is $10 charge to tour to sanctuary. Money from tours and the gift shop will go to preserving the historically designated building.

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