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Congregation Emanu-el Temple National Historic Site of Canada

1461 Blanshard Street, corner of Pandora Street, Victoria, British Columbia, V8W, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1979/11/15

View of the entrance of the Congregation Emanu-el Temple, showing the triple entrance with twin ornamental columns, 1996.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, Barrett & MacKay, 1996.
Detail view
View of the exterior of the Congregation Emanu-el Temple, showing the circular window in the pedimented gable, 1994.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, J. Butterill, 1994.
Façade
View of the interior of the Congregation Emanu-el Temple, showing the gallery and railings, 1994.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, J. Butterill, 1994.
Interior view

Other Name(s)

Congregation Emanu-el Temple National Historic Site of Canada
Congregation Emanu-el Temple
Synagogue de la congrégation Emanu-el

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1863/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/03/30

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Congregation Emanu-el Temple National Historic Site of Canada is a two-storey red brick building located on a prominent intersection in downtown Victoria, British Columbia. Built in 1863, the synagogue is distinguished by its well-preserved Romanesque Revival exterior and its interior detailing. Its setback of approximately two metres from the sidewalk on both street fronts helps differentiate the synagogue from neighbouring commercial and office buildings. Official recognition refers to the building on its legal lot.

Heritage Value

The Congregation Emanu-el Temple was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1979 because it is:
- the oldest surviving synagogue in Canada;
- a rare early surviving example of the 19th century Romanesque Revival style synagogue architecture in Canada.

The building was constructed just five years after the arrival of the first Jewish settlers in British Columbia in 1858. Although small in size, Victoria’s Jewish community played active and dynamic roles in the economic, cultural and political life of the young city and the colony. When completed in 1863, the synagogue was an impressive addition to the city’s skyline and an assertion of the commitment of this small but significant cultural community to the future of British Columbia.

The synagogue’s design, provided by prominent west coast architect John Wright, utilized Romanesque Revival forms often chosen in the 19th century by the Jewish people as an appropriate expression of their culture and spirituality. Once common throughout Europe and North America, few Romanesque Revival style synagogues now survive. As the oldest synagogue building in the country, Congregation Emanu-el Temple is of outstanding value as a rare and well-preserved link to that design tradition, and for its associations with the history and traditions of Canada’s early Jewish communities.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, 1979.

Character-Defining Elements

The key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the historical site include:
- the continuous function of the building as a synagogue;
- the footprint of the synagogue and the historical relationship between the building and its site, including the setbacks on both street frontages;
- sightlines of the synagogue from Blanshard Street and Pandora Street;
- the exterior forms, massing and design features of the building that are associated with Romanesque Revival style synagogue architecture including the rectangular massing with a pedimented central section flanked by corner pavilions, hipped roof, curved sanctuary, red brick walls articulated by shallow pilasters, corbelling and voussoirs, round headed windows and doors, a triple entrance with twin ornamental columns, wooden eaves detailing, and a circular window in the pedimented gable;
- surviving original interior elements including the historic spatial organization, the sanctuary, gallery and railings, pedimented portal form defining the entrance to the Holy Ark, vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows and skylight, the Bema, interior pilasters, original pews and original wall surfaces.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

Federal

Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date

1979/11/15

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

n/a

Theme - Category and Type

Building Social and Community Life
Religious Institutions
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type

Current

Historic

Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Religious Facility or Place of Worship

Architect / Designer

John Wright

Builder

n/a

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

92

Status

Published

Related Places

west elevation

Congregation Emanu-el

Congregation Emanu-el is a one and one-half storey brick Romanesque Style synagogue on the corner of Blanshard and Pandora Streets.

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