Monday, December 4, 2017

USA: Cincinnati's (former) Isaac M. Wise Center, a Muscular 1920s Building with Delicate Detail

Cincinnati, Ohio. former Isaac M. Wise Center (now Zion First Pentecostal church), A. Lincoln Fechheimer, architect 1926-1927. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017
Cincinnati, Ohio. former Isaac M. Wise Center (now Zion First Pentecostal church), A. Lincoln Fechheimer, architect 1926-1927. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017

USA: Cincinnati's (former) Isaac M. Wise Center, a Muscular 1920s Building with Delicate Detail
by Samuel D. Gruber

The former Isaac M. Wise Center on Reading Road in Cincinnati, Ohio, was built by Congregation K. K. Bene Yeshurun (Isaac M. Wise Temple) in the 1920s to supplement use of the historic Plum Street Temple (built 1866) downtown. It provided classrooms, offices and a library as well as a large auditorium that served as a second sanctuary for worship services. This was one of the first known instances (to me) of the creation of the "satellite synagogue and school" that could serve the needs of a congregation which had moved to a new neighborhood but was for various reasons not ready or willing to give up its much-loved older home. Unlike other instances of such arrangements (Tifereth Israel, Cleveland; B'nai Jehudah, Kansas City) where eventually the older facility was sold, in Cincinnati the Plum Street Temple was retained but the 1920s Wise Center was sold in 1972 when the congregation moved further from the city center.


A. Lincoln Fechheimer (1876-1954) was the architect of the new Wise Center, with his partner Benjamin Ihorst. I recently wrote about Fechheimer and his earlier work designing Hebrew Union College. For the Isaac Wise Center, he rejected the ornate Moorish style of the Plum Street Temple. By the 1920s, this was a style mostly used by Orthodox congregations and institutions (Yeshiva University, for example). He also rejected the Gothic style that he used at HUC, which might have made some sense, but that while that style which was deemed appropriate for college architecture it had rarely been  used for American synagogues since before the Civil War.
 
Cincinnati, Ohio. Plum Street Temple, 1866. Compare the lavish interior with the simpler auditorium of the 1920s Isaac Wise Center. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017.
Cincinnati, Ohio. former Isaac M. Wise Center (now Zion First Pentecostal church). Interior view toward Ark wall. A. Lincoln Fechheimer, architect 1926-1927. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017
There were three architecture styles dominant for American Reform congregations. These included the Classical, which has been popular since the turn of the century and had helped re-brand the movement as a civic-minded, almost nativist denomination in the face of rising tensions over massive immigration to Europe. Predictably, this style was chosen for the Reform Congregation K. K. Bene Israel, a massive Roman temple style building erected nearby on Reading Road in 1910. [On the popularity of the style see my article
Arnold W. Brunner and the New Classical Synagogue in America.]

In the post-World War I period, while the Reform movement searched for new architectural styles, the growing Conservative Movement favored Classicism, as is evident in the still-extant building of  congregation Adath Israel, built in 1926 at 3556 Reading Road, and sold in the late 1960s to the Southern Baptist Church. Adath Israel, designed by Jewish architect Oscar Schwartz, is a large synagogue closely resembles that of K. K. Bene Israel. Conservative congregations built Classical style synagogues and Jewish center across the country.

Cincinnati, Ohio. Congregation K. K. Bene Israel, Rudolph Tietig, arch., 1910. Photo: postcard courtesy of the William A, Rosenthal Collection, College of Charleston.
Cincinnati, Ohio. Former Adath Israel (now Southern Baptist Church), 3556 Reading Road, Oscar Schwartz, architect (?),1926.  Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017
Demand for the Classical style by Reform congregations waned after World War I. But the K. K. Bene Yeshurun builders of the new Isaac M. Wise Center probably would have thought twice in any case, since Bene Israel, from which they had broken off back in 1840, remained their chief congregational rival. No doubt the decision to build the new center - which has a large sanctuary - was to better to compete with Bene Israel in the still-expanding Jewish neighborhood of Avondale. And then there was the reputation of K. K. Bene Yeshurun to maintain. They had been innovative their introduction of Moorish architecture and decoration at the Plum Street Synagogue in 1866 (building) and 1874 (painting), that it would have been important for them to make a strong architectural statement in their new building, too.
 

Another developing styles in the 1920s were variants of Byzantine and Romanesque architecture, which while still historicist, was relatively new for synagogue and when used by a creative architect allowed all sorts of innovations. Fechheimer certainly would have known Chicago's recent Temple Isaiah by Jewish architect Alfred Alschuler, dedicated in 1924.

Chicago, Illinois. Temple Isaiah K.A.M. Alfred Alschuler, architect, Photo: Samuel D. Gruber.
A third style that was emerging just at the end of the 1920s was a stripped down style with smooth walls adorned - if at all - with shallow relief sculpture. These clean walls  allowed a strong emphasis on bold often compact massing. This is what we now call Art Deco, or sometimes for more stream-lined examples, Art Moderne. In the mid-1920s the style was already being used for some types of civic buildings, and Fechheimer himself would masterfully employ the style at the (recently demolished) Wilson Auditorium at the University of Cincinnati in built a few years after the Isaac Wise Center. 

The Byzantine design of Temple Tifereth Israel in Cleveland by Charles Greco, built, 1922-24, moved toward an Art Deco aesthetic in its massing, but there were no full blown Art Deco synagogues to challenge Fechheimer when was designing the Wise Center around 1925-26. The masterpiece of the style, Temple Emanuel in Paterson, New Jersey, designed by F. W. Wentworth, would not be completed until 1929.

Cleveland, Ohio. The Temple (Tifereth Israel). Charles Greco, architect. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 1997.
 Paterson, NJ. Temple Emanuel. Photo: Vincent Giordano/ISJM 2006

So, the Isaac M. Wise Center is built in a neo-Medieval style but already with detail work that reflects Art Deco sensibilities. It is in part of the contract of the bold rough stonework of the building walls and crisp, almost delicate Deco-like details scattered over doors and windows, that makes this work so interesting and attractive.

The great entry arch, may respond to the large arch of the former Sh'erith Ahabeth Achim Synagogue at 3212 Reading Road (now New Friendship Baptist Church), designed by another favorite architect of the Jewish Community Rudoplh Teitig (1877-1958). But because it has a slightly pointed extrados, it is more likely a nod to the Moorish style of the Plum Street Temple.

Cincinnati, Ohio. Former Sh'erith Ahabeth Achim Synagogue, 3212 Reading Road, now New Friendship Baptist Church. Rudolph Teitig, architect, 1906. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 20177.

Cincinnati, Ohio. former Isaac M. Wise Center (now Zion First Pentecostal church), A. Lincoln Fechheimer, architect 1926-1927. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017

Cincinnati, Ohio. former Isaac M. Wise Center (now Zion First Pentecostal church), A. Lincoln Fechheimer, architect 1926-1927. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017
Cincinnati, Ohio. former Isaac M. Wise Center (now Zion First Pentecostal church). note the Tablets, Menorah and other other modest decoration.  A. Lincoln Fechheimer, architect 1926-1927. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017
The attenuated colonettes flanking the doors which rise to support the spring of the arch are also exotic. They are each articulated in a different pattern, similar to what one finds in New York a few years later), But carved columns on facades were popular in the 19th-century, most evident in the exuberant designs of the facade of the Museum of Natural History in London, or a little closer to home at the great St. Boniface Church in Chicago built in 1902. The facade is also marked by the Tablets of the Law and a representation of the Temple Menorah within a roundel. The decoration on the rest of the building is limited and very simple. Most of these are geometrically inspired patterns above or below window and door sills and lintels, and under horizontal string courses. The primary decorative quality of the building's exterior is its bright and warmly colored stone.

Cincinnati, Ohio. former Isaac M. Wise Center (now Zion First Pentecostal church).  Rear, south side facade. Note sawtooth dentil decoration beneath horizontal band. A. Lincoln Fechheimer, architect 1926-1927. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017.

Cincinnati, Ohio. former Isaac M. Wise Center (now Zion First Pentecostal church), A. Lincoln Fechheimer, architect 1926-1927. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017.
The interior space of the Wise Center is spacious, unobstructed, and relatively subdued. Its simplicity much have been quite a shock - or a relief - to the congregation after the busy and bright Moorish patterns of the old Plum Street Temple. There is a single broad and low barrel vault the runs the entire length of the sanctuary. This is cut into on the side to allow large double windows under single round arches. In the late 1960s the sanctuary was remolded and the present-day windows designed and manufactured by stained glass artist Herman Verbinnen were installed. More on these windows in forthcoming post.

Cincinnati, Ohio. former Isaac M. Wise Center (now Zion First Pentecostal church). Interior view to entrance. The windows are from a 1960s renovation. A. Lincoln Fechheimer, architect 1926-1927. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017.

Cincinnati, Ohio. former Isaac M. Wise Center (now Zion First Pentecostal church). Vestibule. A. Lincoln Fechheimer, architect 1926-1927. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017.
Cincinnati, Ohio. former Isaac M. Wise Center (now Zion First Pentecostal church). The heating grates provide addtion decorative and symbols patterns. A. Lincoln Fechheimer, architect 1926-1927. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017.
An addition to Wise Center on North Crescent was dedicated on Sept. 11, 1955. This modest orange brick building is largely out of keeping with the style of the 1920s Center, but is in the style of the 1950s - a mix of casual modernism with traditional vernacular elements.

Cincinnati, Ohio. former Isaac M. Wise Center (now Zion First Pentecostal church), 1955 addition. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017
Thanks to Andrea Rapp, librarian of the Isaac M. Wise Temple for some information used in this post.





Sunday, December 3, 2017

Lithuania: Report on the Conference about the Vilna Great Synagogue Site

Vilnius, Lithuania. School building on site of Great Synagogue of Vilna. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017.
Vilnius, Lithuania. School building on site of Great Synagogue of Vilna. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017.
Vilnius, Lithuania. School building on site of Great Synagogue of Vilna. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017.
Lithuania: Report on the Conference about the Vilna Great Synagogue Site
by Samuel D. Gruber 

In September I had the pleasure of participating in the conference called to discuss the future of the site of the former Great Synagogue of Vilna/Vilnius. Specific projects and general ideas for the site have been floated for almost thirty years, but the area remains mostly neglected. It is comprised of a scruffy urban park amidst Communist-era apartment blocks. A  low-rise Soviet-era kindergarten is set smack over a good part of the synagogues buried foundations.

Vilnius, Lithuania. Plan of part of Old Jewish Quarter with Vilna Shul and Shulhoyf. Map from T. Venclova, Vilnius: City Guide (Vilnius: R. Paknio leidykla, 2015)
In recent years several short archaeological seasons, led first by Zenonas Baubonis and Mindaugas Maciulis and subsequently by Jon Seligman, have revealed well-preserved sections of the sanctuary, and most recently, two mikva'ot, part of a bath complex on the shulhoyf, next to the synagogue.

Vilnius, Lithuania. School building on site of Great Synagogue of Vilna. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017
Vilnius, Lithuania. Main entrance to school building on site of Great Synagogue of Vilna. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017
Vilnius, Lithuania. Main entrance to school building on site of Great Synagogue of Vilna. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017
It was clearly the consensus of the conference that this situation could not and should not be sustained. City officials now appear to be sufficiently embarrassed by the site, which is visited by thousands of international visitors every year. Even the mayor of Vilnius agreed on this point, and he thought a five-year time period was favorable, given that Vilnius will be celebrating its 700th anniversary in 2023.  Since the conference I'm told there have been continuing talks about how to move forward.

Almost everyone favored continuation of the archaeology, but there is no consensus yet as to what end. The site can be treated in many ways - from an archaeological park, or a memorial garden, or as an interpretive center or museum, or even with a completely rebuilt, and mostly modern, structure. While various options were put forward, it was not the thrust of the conference to be absolute, but rather to search widely for inspiration and examples about how the site could be best preserved and presented, and how accessibly, forcefully, and explicitly the site and its history could be publicly presented.

Fine papers by Vladimir Levin and Sergey Kravtsov of the Center for Jewish Art presented the history of the synagogue and the development and meaning of its architecture. Another by Aistė Niunkaitė-Raciuniene presented detailed and excellent account of representations of the synagogue in art, and especially through the holdings of Vilnius's Museum of Tolerance, where she is curator. 

Vilnius, Lithuania. Zydu Street in its new alignment with school building on site of Great Synagogue of Vilna. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017
Vilnius, Lithuania. Vilan Gaon monument on Zydu St. and school building on site of Great Synagogue of Vilna. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017
Vilnius, Lithuania. Informational sign across Zydu St. from site of Great Synagogue of Vilna. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017
Jon Seligman presented in detail about the results of archaeological excavations and he also spoke about the challenges of archaeological conservation, and showed several examples of successful efforts to publicly present archeological finds. Most dramatic of these is the splendid archaeological exhibit which is a major component of Vilnius's own entirely rebuilt Palace of the Duke's.

I, too, spoke on a related subject, providing many examples from abroad - including the United States - of how archaeological remains have been conserved, protected, presented, interpreted, and deconstructed as historical, cultural,or  memorial objects or as sites of veneration or commemoration. I've written on this blog in the past and will in the future about  examples of preservation of ruins, but I'll hold off here, since my paper will be available in a published form.  Important, too, were several more detailed comparative presentations about measures taken in other cities, including Berlin and Cologne.

Israeli architect Tsila Zak presented her latest concept for the area. She first won a competition in 1980 that would address the site and she has been adjusting, refining, and adapting this for decades. Over the years, it has been endorsed and accepted by many local governments and leading cultural figures, but never implemented. Whether Zak's design will now have a chance in uncertain. Her project addresses many of the main concerns and seems very practical. She re-instates the older street pattern and approximates the former elevation, and she creates a public memorial space - part paved and part green - that includes important symbolic elements of the synagogue but also is designed to accommodate individual and group gatherings, continuing a fundamental role of a synagogue space. Zak's design could be built in phases and adjusted in many ways. She has given years of thought to the problem of the place and space, so her work seems the best place to start a broad public and professional discussion.

Vilnius, Lithuania. Zydu Street in its new alignment with school building on site of Great Synagogue of Vilna. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017

Vilnius, Lithuania. Zydu Street in its new alignment with school building on site of Great Synagogue of Vilna. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017

Vilnius, Lithuania. Large garbage bins line much of the area around the site of former Great Synagogue of Vilna. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017

Vilnius, Lithuania. This open area with a small playground is across Zydu Street from the site of former Great Synagogue of Vilna. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017

Vilnius, Lithuania. Zydu Street in its new alignment with school building on site of Great Synagogue of Vilna. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017
Vilnius, Lithuania. Large garbage bins line much of the area around the site of former Great Synagogue of Vilna. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017

Vilnius, Lithuania. Modern apartment buildings surround much of  the area of the site former Great Synagogue of Vilna. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017
Vilnius, Lithuania. Modern apartment buildings surround much of  the area of the site former Great Synagogue of Vilna. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017



Sunday, November 19, 2017

A. Lincoln Fechheimer (1876-1954), Cincinatti's Leading Jewish Architect

Cincinnati, Ohio. Hebrew Union College. A. Lincoln Fechheimer, architect. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017
Cincinnati, Ohio. Hebrew Union College. A. Lincoln Fechheimer, architect. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017
A. Lincoln Fechheimer (1876-1954), Cincinnati's Jewish Architect Who Designed Hebrew Union College (and much more)
by Samuel D. Gruber

I recently spent a few days at a conference on the campus of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. The collection of a about a dozen buildings comprises a small campus on Clifton Avenue, first laid out in 1907 and opened in 1912, close to the much larger expanse of the University of Cincinnati. Not all of the buildings are of a piece. Now included is an adjacent large Masonic Hall built in 1915 (now Mayerson Hall), and several modern buildings, but the functional and aesthetic core of HUC still consists of brick structures built in the then popular collegiate Gothic style, imported and adapted from the English college architecture of Oxford and Cambridge.  In the context of American educational architecture this was no big deal.  Countless colleges, universities,  Christian religious seminaries and even prep school all were built in this style in the late-19th and early-20th century. 

What makes HUC's campus important in "Jewish architecture,"however, is that is was the first Jewish educational campus erected in America and that is was designed by Jewish architect A. Lincoln Fechheimer. For someone used to visiting Ivy League and other elite American college campus, the architecture is familiar, but it is a shock to see the buildings adorned with Jewish stars, the Hebrew Ten Commandments, and Torah scrolls.

Fechheimer's name is not much known now, he does not appear on most lists fo Jewish architects, but he was quite accomplished in his day.  His success exemplifies the productive careers open to Jewish architects in the early decades of the 20th century. Most major American cities had a least one - and sometimes more - established and respected Jewish architect. For Jews, architecture (and the related field of civil engineering) were respectable fields that contributed to society and which also allow a good livelihood. Fechheimer belonged to the second generation of American-born Jews who trained in good American universities and often then completed their architectural training abroad, most often in in the early 1900s in Paris.

Cincinnati, Ohio. Hebrew Union College. Herman Learning Center, one of the original buildings on campus. A. Lincoln Fechheimer, architect. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017.
Cincinnati, Ohio. Hebrew Union College. Former Administration Building.entry portal. Note Torah scrolls flanking attic story of A. Lincoln Fechheimer, architect. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017.
Cincinnati, Ohio. Hebrew Union College. Former Masonic Temple (1915) now Mayerson Hall. This building - not originally part of the HUC campus was built at just about the same time. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017.
The creation of a new purpose-built Reform seminary was a project of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, which in March 1903 appointed a committee to consider moving the College, founded in 1875, to a new Cincinnati location. Eighteen acres of land was purchased near the University, facing Clifton Avenue and across from Burnet Woods.  Despite revenue from the sale of the College's previous site, raising money to pay for new site alone - not considering the cost of new buildings, was difficult.

During this long process, noted New York-based (Jewish) architect Arnold W. Brunner (1857-1925) was hired as a consulting architect to design a program and to help select architects for the specific tasks. Financier Jacob Schiff, who was a regular patron of Brunner, contributed $25,000 to the building program and this probably had a lot to do with Brunner's appointment. But besides being Jewish, Brunner had more than two decades experience designing for Jewish communal and educational institutions. He was also a well-known national architect. He was still overseeing completion of the impressive Federal Building in Cleveland, for which he had won a competition in 1901 (cornerstone laid in 1905) and since 1902 he has been one of the three architects (Daniel Burnham and John Carriere) named to the Cleveland Board of Supervision of Public Buildings and Grounds, which subsequently came to be known as the Group Plan Commission, in charge of the influential "Cleveland Plan." With this work Brunner began two decades of constant city planning work in more than a dozen cities. In 1903 he was elected president of Architectural League of New York.

Brunner had designed academic buildings for New York University's Bronx campus, and would soon begin important buildings for Columbia and Barnard Colleges.

Perhaps most important for the HUC project, Brunner had designed the new building for the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, which as paid for by Jacob Schiff and which had opened in 1903 at 531-535 W. 123d Street. Brunner’s solution was an attractive classical style palazzo-type building which faced the street with dignity and elegance, and into which he deftly inserted a wide variety of functions.The next year (1904), Brunner was engaged to design the new School of Mines (Lewisohn Hall) paid for by another wealthy Jewish Brunner patron, Adolph Lewisohn.

Jewish Theological Seminary, 531-535 W. 123d Street, New York City, 1903. Arnold W. Brunner, architect.

 On January 14, 1907, the Executive Board of HUC heard that:
 “The Building Committee, aided by their Consulting Architect, Mr. Arnold W. Brunner of New York, after a competitive submission of plans, adopted those prepared by Mr. A. Lincoln Fechheimer, who has associated with himself Mr. Harry Hake.  These plans are now on exhibition in the hall wherein the Twentieth Council of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations will meet.” [Proceedings of the Executive Board, Hebrew Union College  (Jan. 14, 1907)].
Fechheimer was a member of a prominent Jewish Cincinnati family (see the Marcus Fechheimer House, Garfield Place). Despite being born deaf, Fechheimer achieved notoriety as a brilliant draftsman and talented designer from an early age. He attended Columbia University; and then studied at the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1900-1904, where he received his receiving Diploma. He spent two years in Chicago, and then returned to Cincinnati where he formed a new firm with Harry Hake in 1906.

Fechheimer and Hake won the competition for the original group of buildings at Hebrew Union College in 1907, and the College moved onto the new campus in 1912.  Buildings from the original design continued to be erected into the 1920s.

Cincinnati, Ohio. Hebrew Union College. Former Administration Building. A. Lincoln Fechheimer, architect. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017.
Cincinnati, Ohio. Hebrew Union College. Sisterhood Dormitory.  A. Lincoln Fechheimer, architect, 1921-25. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017.

Cincinnati, Ohio. Hebrew Union College. Former Freiberg Gymnasium (now Barbash Family Support Center).  A. Lincoln Fechheimer, architect. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017.

I find it interesting that Brunner - himself the first successful American-born Jewish architect and an early graduate of MIT -  took an active role in starting the career of the young Fechheimer, who had only recently returned from four years study in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (1900-1904), and who, after working two years in Chicago had only started his new firm with Harry Hake in 1906. Besides this, young Fechheimer was totally deaf from birth, so was hardly a known and likely candidate. Of course, he came from a distinguished Cincinnati Jewish family, so that may have influenced the decision as much as Brunner's judgement. Still, I wonder if I advancing Fechheimer's career Brunner was not "passing forward" the early mentoring he had received from (Jewish) architect Henry Fernbach.

Cincinnati, Ohio. Former Wise Center (now Zion Temple First Pentacostal Church) on Reading Road. Fechheimer & Ihorst, architects, 1926-28. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2017.
Fechheimer (with Harry Hake and then Benjamin Ihorst) subsequently designed several important buildings in Cincinnati, including the Moderne-style Wilson Auditorium (demolished, 2013) and Beecher Hall (demolished) on the Clifton Campus of the University of Cincinnati and the (former) Wise Center Building, on Reading Road in Avondale (1926-28).  Fechheimer, Ihorst & McCoy designed the Dale Park School in Mariemont (1924-1925). Fechheimer & Ihorst designed the elegant Ault Park Pavilion (1930). 

See:

 Biographical Dictionary of Cincinnati Architects, 1788-1940]

 "Speech Unto the Speechless: The Remarkable Story of A. Lincoln Fechheimer of Cincinnati...," American Hebrew (Nov. 4, 1921).




Sunday, November 12, 2017

USA: War Memorial in Cincinnati's Walnut Hills Jewish Cemetery

Cincinnati, Ohio. Walnut Hills United Jewish Cemetery. War Memorial in first erected in 1868 and subsequently expanded. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017
Cincinnati, Ohio. Walnut Hills United Jewish Cemetery. Plaque on War Memorial commemorating Lieutenant Louis Reitler who was killed in battle. This plaque appears to replace an earlier one in the same location. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017
Cincinnati, Ohio. Walnut Hills United Jewish Cemetery. Plaque on War Memorial. Left plaque lists six additional names of Civil War veterans. Right plaque commemorates those who died in World War II. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017
Cincinnati, Ohio. Walnut Hills United Jewish Cemetery. Plaque commemorates those who died in World War II. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017
USA: War Memorial in Cincinnati's Walnut Hills United Jewish Cemetery
by Samuel D. Gruber

The Walnut Hills Jewish Cemetery is at 3400 Montgomery Road Evanston, a neighborhood of Cincinnati, was founded  in the mid-19th-century and developed through subsequent decades as a quintessential English landscape-park type of cemetery. Consecrated in 1850, when it received its first burial, it was apparently only fully opened by members of Bene Israel and B'nai Jeshurun congregations in 1862 [n.b. am still looking for full and reliable history of the cemetery]

The cemetery contains Cincinnati's Jewish Civil War Memorial (Section 3, Lot 71, Grave 5), originally dedicated in 1868 to honor Lieutenant Louis Reitler (or Reiter), who served with the 37th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Companies F and H. He enlisted as a Private and was ranked as a 1st Lieutenant when he was killed in battle in 1862 at the age of 20. 

Cincinnati, Ohio. Walnut Hills United Jewish Cemetery. War Memorial in first erected in 1868 and subsequently expanded. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017
Cincinnati, Ohio. Walnut Hills United Jewish Cemetery. War Memorial in first erected in 1868 and subsequently expanded. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017
This first monument appears to be the still-extant central obelisk of what is now a more expansive war memorial, which has been expanded to honor veterans of other wars. The United Jewish Cemetery rededicated the Memorial on Memorial Day 2008.

Several bronze plaques are now affixed to the base of the obelisk and the graves of veterans, all with similar headstones, are clustered in six groups of three on one side of the obelisk. Possibly the present appearance of the memorial dates from the 2008 re-dedication. 

While there are other (later) monuments and memorials to earlier Jewish war dead elsewhere in America, such as those commemorating Revolutionary War victim Francis Salvador in Charleston, SC., and there are war memorials in Jewish cemeteries across America, this one in the Walnut Hills Cemetery is the oldest and most formal of those I have seen. Is it the first? I invite readers to write in and send pictures of examples from of towns and cities.

Cincinnati, Ohio. Walnut Hills United Jewish Cemetery. War Memorial in first erected in 1868 and subsequently expanded. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017
Cincinnati, Ohio. Walnut Hills United Jewish Cemetery.  Right plaque lists six additional names of Civil War veterans. Left plaque commemorates those who died in World War I. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017
Cincinnati, Ohio. Walnut Hills United Jewish Cemetery. Pplaque commemorates those who died in World War I. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017
Cincinnati, Ohio. Walnut Hills United Jewish Cemetery. Veterans graves by war War Memorial. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2017
The cemetery is also the site of the grave of David Urbansky (or Orbansky), a Civil War hero who was the first Jew to be awarded a Medal of Honor. This is located separately. Urbansky's remains were moved here to be by his widow, who has moved to Cincinnati.