The Preservation Society was formed in July 2009. Its first act was to negotiate for ownership of the Temple building. After extensive negotiations a deed was recorded, and the Society then set its sights on securing state and national historic recognition. In doing so, we came to appreciate not only the historical significance but also its architectural importance of Temple Beth Israel. We learned about William Riseman, the Boston architect with local roots who designed the building.
Our official listing on the National Register of Historic Places is reference # 13000162
William Riseman (1911 – 1982) was a highly accomplished architect who specialized in designing motion picture theaters. He was thought to have designed more film theaters in the United States than any other individual or firm. He did work for General Cinema, National Amusements, Loews Corporation and Redstone Cinemas. He was also the designer of the Latin Quarter nightclubs in New York and Boston and the executive offices of the Farber Cancer Institute and the Redstone Laboratory of the Jimmy Fund in Boston. A mural he painted in the Lynn Mass post office in the 1930s “The History of America,” has since been declared a National Historic Monument.
Educated at Yale School of Fine Arts he won several scholarships. By age 25 he held seven first prize medals awarded by the Beaux Arts Institute of Design of New York for excellence in murals. Some of his works adorn lobbies and salons of Boston, Portland and New York hotels and public institutions.
Bill’s connection to Temple Beth Israel was through his parents who lived in Brooklyn, Connecticut. His father and uncle owned and operated a chicken and Rock Cornish hen farming business in partnership with the entertainer, Victor Borger. When he learned about the plans for building a Temple, Bill went to work designing the building. His mother, Mary Riseman, a member of the Temple community, donated the stone used to build the building. Bill’s mother died in 1950. Bill completed the design work in her memory at no charge to the community.
Building Preservation and Restoration Initiatives:
DAR Ribbon Cutting Ceremony (2015)
2015 saw two major restoration projects funded and completed and the launching of a third. The first project was to stabilize and waterproof the upper-level terrace. The Society applied to the National DAR for a grant to help fund the repairs. The application was successful and a grant of $10,000 was approved and repairs were completed in September 2015. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at which representatives of the DAR were honored as well as local dignitaries. [Photo of Ribbon Cutting Ceremony] The second project was to stabilize, level and render accessible the lower stone terrace. These repairs were funded by a major initiative undertaken by the Rosenberg family. A successful fundraising campaign helped to fund the David and Shirley Rosenberg Memorial Courtyard Project which was completed in October 2015. The third project was to upgrade the electrical systems and lighting in the building. To fund this effort, a campaign entitled “Let There Be Light” was launched in the spring of 2015. The Society learned in early 2016 that the CT Trust for Historic Preservation has approved a grant to help fund the electrical work. That work was begun in the spring of 2016 and was completed in midsummer. In 2020 with the assistance of a grant from the 1772 Foundation, the Preservation Society took on structural work to replace beams and windows in its west terrace. That work was completed in December 2021. Also in 2020, with support from Martin Israelit, Betty Anne Israelit, Claire Israelit Zweig and Gill Zweig, the Society rebuilt and refurbished the Temple kitchen. This gleaming new kitchen was dedicated in 2022 in memory of Anna Israelit. In late 2021, the Preservation Society was awarded a security grant by the State of Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. This grant helped fund building security upgrades which are now in place. This includes a sophisticated system of cameras both inside and outside, video door locks upstairs and downstairs and a panic alert system that is tied into our building security system. . In February 2023, the Preservation Society discovered that it had a leaking roof. The roof is over 30 years old and it's time to replace it. This project will be the subject of a grant application to the Connecticut Historical Preservation Office.
With the structural and electrical needs addressed, the Society hopes to turn its focus to building a visitor center which will house educational displays presenting artifacts, photographs and digital audio and video interviews with founders and key individuals who helped to create and maintain our community.
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