Torn-Down Tuesday: Temple Beth Zion, 1890-1961

       By Steve Cichon

On Delaware Avenue just south of North Street, Temple Beth Zion was “the first Reform Judaism temple in the East.”

Temple Beth Zion, 1895.

The Medina brownstone synagogue – boasting North America’s largest wooden dome – was built in 1890, a Byzantine structure with Romanesque details.

It was a landmark on Delaware Avenue until a massive fire swept through the building on Oct. 4, 1961.

Buffalo Firefighter Joseph Oehler was commended for risking his life to save the congregation’s Torah scrolls, but that was about all that could be saved.

The fire that started in an area that had been under renovation burned fast and hot. Despite the work of 135 firefighters using 35 pieces of apparatus, the building’s wooden dome fell within an hour of the flames having been noticed.

The congregation’s current modern temple, north of the location of the previous temple, was completed in 1967.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.