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United Hebrew Temple, 225 S. Skinker Boulevard, shortly after completion. Photograph by W.C. Persons, 1927. Scan (c) Missouri Historical Society, 1999.
The Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center, at 225 S. Skinker Boulevard in St. Louis, was constructed in 1927 as the fourth permanent home of the United Hebrew Congregation.

United Hebrew, founded in 1841, established its first home in 1848 in the former North Baptist Church on Fifth Street (now Broadway) between Washington and Lucas. In 1859, the congregation moved to a new building next to the Benton Public School on Sixth Street between Locust and St. Charles. As the congregation grew along with the city, it moved steadily westward, next to Twenty-first and Olive Streets in 1881, and then in 1903 to the southwest corner of Kingshighway and Von Versen (after 1917, Enright).

In 1927, the United Hebrew Congregation dedicated a new home at 225 S. Skinker. Designed by the architectural firm of Maritz and Young with consulting architect Gabriel Ferrand, the Byzantine-style structure was said to be one of the three largest synagogues in the nation. The United Hebrew Congregation worshiped there for sixty-two years until 1989. An educational building, also designed by Maritz and Young, was added in the early 1950s.

By the early 1980s, United Hebrew Congregation purchased land at Conway and Woods Mill Roads in west St. Louis County, and moved its school operations there to better serve its westering membership. By 1987, a new house of worship was under construction, and was partially occupied in early 1989.

The Missouri Historical Society, which had been seeking another location to house its collection for some years, purchased the Temple building in early 1989, and began plans to renovate it into a state-of-the-art library, collections and conservation facility. Over the next two years, the small educational building at the south of the site was replaced by a four-level 54,000 square foot climate-controlled annex to house the object collections, offices and conservation and photographic laboratories. Two of its levels were placed underground to avoid overshadowing the older building. The sanctuary in the 1927 building, under the forty-foot copper-clad dome, was renovated as the Margaret Blanke Grigg Reading Room in honor of Mrs.Grigg, who donated funds for a painstaking restoration of the plaster work, new woodwork, and a new, rich color scheme. Three levels of closed stacks to house the Library, Archives and Photograph and Print Collections were added on either side of the reading room, replacing the classrooms used before the 1950s. Offices on the north and south sides of the building were created to house the Publications and Research divisions, and offices for the Archives staff.

With the completion of the renovation work in summer 1991, the staff moved the collections into the new building from cramped quarters in the Jefferson Memorial Building and off-site storage sites, a four-month process which culminated in a dedication ceremony on December 2, 1991, presided over by Rabbi Jerome Grollman of the United Hebrew Congregation. In the course of his remarks, Rabbi Grollman observed that this building has always been, and now shall always remain, a house of learning.
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