Fremantle Stuff > Buildings > Synagogue

Synagogue

1902, 92 South Terrace, corner of Norfolk St (now Parry St)

The WA Hebrew Congregation was established in Fremantle August 1887, and services were conducted in 1891 in the Barracks on South Tce. The site of the synagogue, on the corner of Norfolk St (now Parry St), next to the Barracks, was acquired in 1895, tho the building was not erected until 1902. The centre of Jewish activity in Perth moved to Perth, and services in Fremantle were discontinued in 1910. The building functioned as a synagogue for only eight years.

synagogue 1912

By 1912 the synagogue was being used as part of an immigration centre.

The first meeting of the Fremantle Synagogue was in the guard room next to the barracks (in South Terrace). In 1887 Benjamin Solomon convened a meeting of a few Jewish people to discuss the need for a religious home. The first chairman of a group to form a Jewish Community was Lawrence Alexander. Alexander was a well known identity around Fremantle. I have the receipt book of that group people gave their 2/6 and 2/-, to start this community. It is quite a nice collector's item to hold, the butt of the receipt book. ...
I was fascinated also to find out that the Fremantle Council has in its minutes discussion of a place of worship for a Jewish church. ... The site for that was the corner of South Terrace and Norfolk Street. It had on it a small building known as the old guard house, which ultimately became the Eighth Base Hospital. The old guard house was an important building in Fremantle in its day. ...
The Fremantle synagogue, even once it got under way, never had a minister. It only really ran for two or three years. I believe it had the high holy day services; the main important Jewish services like the Day of Atonement, New Year’s Day, Christmas Day and Good Friday. They had those and they had some good people who would take a service but they didn’t have a minister of religion. So it never really got off the ground for the reasons I’ve just mentioned. It obviously ran into financial problems because the people drifted away, so then they had a building and a congregation but no minister, and they had trouble paying the bills. The Perth Hebrew congregation had got under way and this was a competitor. They were not amused that this little congregation down here in Fremantle was called the Western Australian Hebrew Congregation. However that was the story of the synagogue in Fremantle. It’s a bit sad because yes, it did have services, and yes, it was built for religious purposes, but it never really got under way. Eric Silbert 1991: 81-83.

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Murray Edmonds' slide from 1972, FHC #ES00150, showing the Norfolk St (now Parry St) side of the building, with 1925 garage on this side of 1932 shops.

October 1972 Parry Street facade of former Synagogue bulding, corner South Terrace and Parry Street. Designed by Oldham and Eales, it was the first purpose built synagogue in the state. Elias Solomon, a trustee of the local Hebrew congregation, Federal Member for the district and former Mayor, laid the fountain stone on 8 January 1902 and Mr J McCracken completed the building some months later. By 1910 the Jewish population had mainly moved to Perth and the synagogue was sold. In 1924 William Beer occupied and operated an auction mart from the premises. Sometime in the 1920’s a brick corrugated iron rear addition and garage (1925) were completed. In March 1932 Beer acquired ownership of the property and Council approved plans on 20 June for a new brick frontage. Known as “ Beer’s Buildings”, the work was completed by A.H. and H.A. Thorpe of West Perth, at a cost of 650 pounds. The building was acquired by Council in 1969 and leased to for various commercial purposes over the years (Barri’s Rugs, Skid Rose a clothing outlet and gallery and various cafes / restaurants). Council sold the building in 2004.

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Skip Watkins' 1985 photo, FHC #E000169. The (now disused and about to be demolished for yet another carpark) Stan Reilly Centre is to the right of the church, on the site of the former Barracks, with Fremantle Hospital extreme right.

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The synagogue in 1985, occupied by Barri's Complete Rug Centre. Beer's Buildings - as may be seen in the moulding in the corner facade - had been built in 1932 in front of the synagogue, right up to the street corner. Note the 1925 garage on the left.

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Skid Rose, a frock shop, kept the street number (92) on the corner, but did not highlight the name of the (Beer's) building. The garage is still there.

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There was also a restaurant here at one point. I think this is in the right order.

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An excellent view from the northwest, in somewhere around 2010, of the 1902 synagogue showing its relationship with the 1932 buildings to the west (right) and the associated buildings to the east (left) which have recently been removed as part of the current rebuilding as a hotel.

synagogue

The Beer's sign is obscured by a neon sign proclaiming its identity as a Cafe - which it had by ceased to be by the time this photo was taken. The garage has gone.

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synagogue hotel

In 2016 permission has been given for a hotel, something like what is planned in the drawing above, to be built at the rear of the existing building.

References and Links

Wendy & Ari Antonovsky, notes about the synagogue in their Heritage Walk.

Silbert, Eric 1999, 'Jewish personalities of Fremantle', Fremantle Studies, 1: 77-91.


Garry Gillard | New: 23 May, 2016 | Now: 31 August, 2017