Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington

The Lillian and Albert Small Capital Jewish Museum

Project at a Glance

Washington, DC



Project Type

New Construction

Project Overview

> President Ulysses S. Grant was present at the historic synagogue’s dedication in 1876

> It is the oldest purpose-built synagogue in the Washington region

> The synagogue building has been moved twice in its history, including in 1969 when it was in danger of demolition for the new Metro

The Capital Jewish Museum incorporates Washington, DC’s oldest synagogue into a new, ground-up museum, intended to highlight, educate, and celebrate the Jewish community in the Nation’s capital. The most impressive feature of the museum is the 146-year-old historic brick synagogue, which was originally built several blocks away from the Museum’s current location.

The synagogue received its own HVAC system, additional structural support, and new finishes to match existing that elevated it to museum quality capable of housing two separate exhibit spaces. The new adjacent structure added nearly 28,000 sq. ft. of gallery space, administrative offices, and archival storage. The modest design of the synagogue strikingly contrasts the more contemporary exterior envelope of the new museum addition. Large curtain wall glass, terracotta, and formed metal wall panels clad the museum making it impossible to miss on a street lined with everyday office buildings.