Quick Visit to Former Mishkan Israel in New Haven, Connecticut: Once Grand Reform Synagogue by Brunner & Tryon (1895-1897) Now an Arts School
By Samuel D. Gruber
ISJM, August 8, 2008
Last week on a drive up I-95 from New Jersey to Rhode Island I did a quick detour in New Haven to visit the former Temple Mishkan Israel Synagogue, once New Haven's grandest Jewish building, now serving as an arts magnet school. Located just 2 blocks east of Yale University, Mishkan Israel opened in 1897, and served the until 1960 when the venerable congregation moved to a new suburban building in Hamden (designed by important modernist and German refugee Fritz Nathan). The big building is worth a visit. It is one of a small number of late 19th-century grand American Reform synagogues that survive in urban America.
The downtown building was designed by Arnold W. Brunner and Thomas Tryon just at the time they were building Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City. Both buildings are large and imposing, but otherwise quite distinct. Temple Mishkan Israel was one of four large synagogues the firm built in the 1890s, and the last before Arnold Brunner fully committed to Neo-classical style. Temple Mishkan Israel combines the popular European 2- tower design for synagogues with an eclectic mix of Italianate and Colonial elements, which show Brunner using Classicism, but still filtering it through other historical styles.
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N.B. For more on this building and other historic synagogues in Connecticut consult the essential guide by David F. Ransom, "One Hundred Years of Jewish Congregations in Connecticut, An Architectural Survey: 1843-1943," Connecticut Jewish History, Vol. 2:1 (1991), 7-147.