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Temple Freda

The Jewish community of Bryan, Texas had its origins in the 1860s, and met in the homes of members for worship services. By 1890 a congregation had been organized and in 1912 J.W. English, a Christian merchant, donated parts of lots 6 and 7 in block 117 of Bryan to the congregation for the purpose of establishing a synagogue. Many of the materials used int he construction of the building were given by local citizens. The simple rectangular building in the Greek Revival style, was completed within a year. It was named at its dedication for Mrs. Ethel Freda Kaezer, the recently deceased wife of the congregation's president. The deed to the building requires that the building be used as a place of worship.

The front of the building has finely detailed tan brick walls with a classical entablature in pressed metal. The portico has two wooden Corinthian columns. The simple interior has an entrance lobby, flanked by two bathrooms, leading into the sanctuary. A small meeting room is located at the back. The synagogue retains its original ark and bimah furnishings, pews, menorahs, light fixtures and fans. The ceiling is of pressed metal. The original cast iron stoves, although not in use, are stored in the building. Stained glass windows, many donated in memory of congregation members, enrich the otherwise plain interior.

At the time of documentation the building was being used by an African-American Christian women's group. As the team painstakingly took field measurements, they discovered artifacts from the early Jewish congregation, including a damaged torah cover with gold embroidery around a padded representation of the two tablets of the Mosaic Law. The padding was folded newspaper, the New York Evening Journal from 1901, indicating the date of manufacture. Also found were records of members, many from Eastern Europe, with their occupations. This material was presented to the local B'nai Brith Hillel Foundation.

One team member was a graduate student in History and undertood to write a successful nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. As part of the research she interviewed Ethel Gelber, a daughter of one of the founding members of the synagogue, who recalled the 1913 dedication which she attended at the age of eight.

A National Register listing draws attention to the importance of a building, but only dedicated owners can ensure its continuing life.