In the early 1990s, homeowner Stephanie Slewka made a fascinating discovery on the second floor of her 19th century townhouse at 415 M Street, NW: a mural concealed beneath layers of paint and wallpaper. As if peeling back layers of time, she found one of the only remaining traces of Shomrei Shabbos, a small orthodox community in downtown Washington that worshiped in the townhouse. The nearly 90-year-old mural was the upper portion of a larger piece that had surrounded the synagogue’s ark on the floor below.
Decades later, that same mural is in danger. Plans to convert the building into condominiums threaten the survival of this unique piece of Washington Jewish history.
Thanks to Samantha Bass and Zachary Paul Levine of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington for the guest post!
As many realtors will tell you, the first three rules of real estate are, “location, location, location.” Well, in the late 1960s, location presented a very serious problem for transit planners and the congregation of the Adas Israel synagogue. Construction of Metro’s Red Line was getting underway and WMATA had acquired the block bounded by 5th, 6th, F and G Streets, NW to serve as a staging area and, eventually, the home of Metro’s headquarters.
There was only one problem. The block was also the home of Washington’s first synagogue building, which had been standing on the site since 1876.