Among the prosperous
Clevelanders who began to seek refuge from sprawling industrial development
a century ago were hundreds of the city’s Jews. By the 1920s the
Jewish population of Cleveland Heights was approaching 5000, comprising
nearly a third of the resident population. The steady eastward migration
of Jews prompted the Conservative congregation, B’nai Jeshurun,
to construct the first synagogue to be built in Cleveland’s suburbs.
A site was obtained on Mayfield Road, one of the main traffic arteries
through the Heights area, across the street from a recently constructed
office and commercial complex that was intended as the centerpiece of
John D. Rockefeller’s Forest Hill development. The Rockefeller interests
initially resisted the establishment of a major Jewish institution bordering
their development but eventually relented (See Temple
on the Heights Versus the Rockefellers).
The synagogue, which soon came to be known as the Temple on the Heights,
was designed by the prominent Boston architect Charles Greco and is one
of only two examples of Greco’s religious architecture in the area.
(The other Greco structure is the Temple at East 105th St. and Ansel Rd.
in University Circle.) Dedicated in 1926, the main building is an eclectic,
polychromatic brick, stone, and pre-cast concrete structure that features
Byzantine, Romanesque, and even Mission-style themes. It consists of a
square sanctuary surmounted by a polygonal twelve-sided dome horizontally
banded with stone or concrete courses. Each segment of the main dome features
a pair of arched windows with multiple lights, round or curved mutins
and a separating stone column. The street facade of the main building
is asymmetrical. The east wing repeats many of the themes found on the
sanctuary block, including its round-arched windows, circular lights,
pediments flanked by arcading, and pedimented secondary entries. A west
wing was added to the original structure in the mid-1950s and displays
some of the same features with slight modifications, including a two-story,
twelve-sided dome-like structure with a pyramidal roof and multi-lighted
windows. The side and rear facades are largely un-enriched and feature
simple windows and utilitarian features. The building occupies 110,000
square feet of space.
The continued eastward migration of its congregants prompted B’nai
Jeshurun to vote in 1969 to relocate to Pepper Pike, and it sold the Temple
on the Heights in 1980 to a group of private investors. With the encouragement
of the City of Cleveland Heights, which desired a privately owned and
maintained civic center, the owners of the property marketed it as the
Civic. In 2002, the building was purchased by the New Spirit Revival Center
and currently is being refurbished.