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Congregation B'nai Israel Synagogue

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c. 1967, Harry Ramsay. 224 Prospect St.

This synagogue exemplifies 1960s use of shaped structure and modern stained glass for what might be seen as a revival of design in a modern expressionist vein for religious architecture. Prevalent during the early 1920s, this tendency was mostly eclipsed by the rationalism at the core of influential modern architecture through World War II, then reemerged, perhaps especially during the 1960s. The synagogue sits high above the street, with stairs up to a terrace sheltered by an ovoid reinforced concrete slab lifted on seven branched concrete supports which symbolize the seven tribes of Israel. Behind, on either side of an axial entrance foyer, are temple and social rooms contained within a low box with angled ends. Composed of tilted reinforced concrete slabs, it is reminiscent in its overall shape of an overturned boat (or ark). On either side of the entrance (complicating the boat metaphor), the walls are slashed by rows of narrow, floor-toroof gables filled with chunky stained glass in a modern, semiabstract design of superb color. Color and sheltering shape are the expressive ingredients of the plainly handled but sumptuous wood and glass interior.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Congregation B'nai Israel Synagogue", [Woonsocket, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 233-233.

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