Changes are on the horizon for the Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum as it gets ready for a short journey one block south from its current location at Third and G streets to Third and F. The move, which has been in the works for several years, comes as a result of the $1.4 billion Capitol Crossing mixed-use project that will make use of the space near I-395.
The building, which is home to the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, has been through a number of phases. It first served as the original Adas Israel synagogue when it opened in 1876 at Sixth and G. It later came under threat of being demolished when construction of the Metro began in 1969, but the society purchased the building and arranged for it to be moved three blocks using a tractor.
When the move and the new space is completed in 2019, the museum will include new features such as a more spacious lobby, multipurpose room and three exhibition galleries. In the interim, the collections will be housed in an offsite storage facility. This includes hundreds of artifacts, documents and features of the original synagogue that have been preserved. The museum began transferring the contents out of the building earlier this month.
But even with the collections off-limits, day-to-day operations will still occur while the work is being done.
“We will be continuing our walking tours and educational programs while the synagogue is closed for the next few years and we are engaged in planning the new museum, and our collections will continue to be available for researchers,” said Wendy Turman who serves as the museum’s director of collections.
Turman said she does not yet have the date of the move but anticipates knowing more details in the next couple weeks.
The main reason that the building must move is the construction of an underground parking garage for Capitol Crossing, which will sit underneath the structure at 200 Massachusetts Ave, said Sean Cahill, senior vice president for development at property Group Partners, the project’s developer. Cahill said Property Group Partners is responsible for the logistics of the move and the cost, which he thinks will be about $500,000.
“We’re doing the move, we’re doing the archiving, we’re doing everything,” he said. “Most developers would walk away from it.”
Cahill noted that when the project is complete, the synagogue will sit across from another old religious site: Holy Rosary Church is 103 years old.
Cahill said the plan for Capitol Crossing has been in the works for 11 years. Over that time, the company has worked with the museum in order to make sure the transition is smooth.
“We’re finalizing with crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s,” he said. “We have a very good and healthy relationship with each other. Everyone sees it as a positive piece of the pie. When we’re done you won’t even know that the highway’s below.”