The idea for creating a home for aging and impoverished Jews in Washington dates to 1914 with the founding of the Hebrew Aged Home Association. Headed by Bernard Danzansky, the association hoped to support a growing population of Jews needing aid, particularly those who did not speak English. The home first, at 415 M Street NW, provided room, board, and a religious atmosphere for its residents, but was so popular that it was overcrowded nearly from its inception.
In 1922, the board of directors of the Washington Hebrew Home for the Aged announced their intentions to move the Home from the Shaw neighborhood to their newly purchased site on Spring Road between 10th and 13th Streets, NW, which would include both a residential facility and a hospital. Construction commenced in June 1924 to the designs of noted architect Appleton P. Clark, who planned the building to be erected in phases. The building was to have a central synagogue flanked by symmetrical residential and hospital wings. However, only the westernmost portion of Clark’s design was realized when the Home opened in 1925 with 35 beds for residents.
Upon completion, work was to commence immediately on the hospital wing, which was planned as a nonsectarian institution for the Columbia Heights neighborhood. However, financial difficulties postponed completion of Clark’s original design for nearly 30 years.
As with its predecessor on M Street, the new Hebrew Home for the Aged became overcrowded not long after its construction. By 1950, the facility had far exceeded its 50 person limit, with some residents sleeping on cots in hallways and porches. Due to this pressing need for residential space, Clark’s original floorplan was abandoned in favor of a new layout by architect Edward William St. Cyr Barrington that would increase the building’s capacity to 192 residents, while also retaining the architectural vocabulary inherent in Clark’s building.
Completed in 1953, Barrington’s addition contained offices and a synagogue with seating for 200, a dining room, nurses’ dining room, recreation room, medical examining and treatment rooms, a laboratory, X-ray room, dental room and pharmacy, solarium, and residents’ rooms.
To the immediate west of the Hebrew Home is the 1940 Jewish Social Service Agency (JSSA), designed by architect Julius Wenig. Although simplified in form and ornamentation, the building takes its design cues from the Hebrew Home. Originally called the United Hebrew Relief Society of D.C., the JSSA was incorporated in 1921 as a combination of several 19th and early 20th century Jewish relief organizations. The Society delivered rent money, food, clothing and coal to needy families and new immigrants and also provided start-up costs for small businesses, in an effort to keep families independent.
By the mid-1960s, it was determined that the hospital and JSSA could no longer adequately serve the needs of the local Jewish population, which had largely relocated northward into Montgomery County, Maryland. In 1968, the Spring Road site was sold to the District of Columbia and the Hebrew Home, JSSA, and the Jewish Community Center moved together to Rockville.
DC designation May 22, 2014
National Register listing July 25, 2014