Neighborhoods  /  Delaware Avenue

The home of the downtown Jewish Community Center, and Temple Beth Zion, Delaware Avenue is a premier address in Buffalo.

Overview

Delaware Avenue was known as Millionaires’ Row from the 1880s to World War I, when many large mansions were constructed along it. Lined with elm trees and occupying generous landscaped plots, wealthy businessmen and industrialists constructed their homes as a reflection of their status. Designed by society architect, Edward Kent, Temple Beth Zion at 599 Delaware Avenue was an expression of the confidence members held about their place on the avenue (and in Buffalo) having been Central European Jewish immigrants just a generation before. A catastrophic fire that completely destroyed Temple Beth Zion in 1961, and its rebuilding a few blocks away at 805 Delaware Avenue was part of a discussion around suburbanization and identity. In 1963, the congregation voted overwhelming to remain a city based congregation and the new sanctuary was dedicated in 1967.

The Jewish Community Center at 787 Delaware Avenue in 1948 was built in another era under different conditions. Jewish immigration numbers had lessened considerably due to government regulation in the 1920s effectively consolidating existing communities, and lessening the immigrant identities of both the earlier central European waves that had founded Temple Beth Zion and the later Eastern European community that had built the Jewish Community Building on the East Side. The Jewish Community Center emerged as a “Beth Am” (a house of the people), that provided homes for other Jewish organizations alongside services and spaces for Buffalonians to enjoy.

Since the mid twentieth century, both institutions have provided convening space for community wide events including expos, rallies and celebrations.

Contribute to this page

Do you have memorabilia, especially old photographs of the interiors of the first Beth Zion at 599 Delaware Avenue, or special events at the JCC, including Israel Expo 1976? If you’d like to share these with us, please  contact us—or upload here.

Delaware Avenue Location Map

Gallery

PALS Fraternity

PALS Fraternity

Ground breaking at the new Jewish Community Center, 1947

Ground breaking at the new Jewish Community Center, 1947

Browns Boys Basket Ball team at the Jewish Community Center, 1957

Browns Boys Basket Ball team at the Jewish Community Center, 1957

Mural by Lewis Rubenstein

Mural by Lewis Rubenstein

Temple Beth Zion, Shahn Windows

Temple Beth Zion, Shahn Windows

Frieze from 599 Delaware Avenue, 2013

Frieze from 599 Delaware Avenue, 2013

Groundbreaking for a Temple at 805 Delaware Avenue

Groundbreaking for a Temple at 805 Delaware Avenue

Documents