History or comments

An architectural masterpiece on a magnificent lakeside campus.

The North Shore Congregation was founded in 1920, primarily by families who had lived on the North Shore for several years. Initially the congregation was a branch of the Classical Reform Sinai Congregation which held services on Sundays, like most Reform congregations in the Chicago area. At first services were held in the Hubbard Woods School of Winnetka, Illinois.

In 1926 the members voted that the congregation should become independent of the Sinai Congregation. A temple site in Glencoe was selected and three months later the name North Shore Congregation Israel was chosen. At the time of the dedication, there were 326 family members and 46 non-members who also contributed to the building fund.

By the late 1950s it was clear that a larger facility was needed. A congregant was able to acquire the magnificent lakefront property where the North Shore Congregation is presently located. The building, with its magnificent sanctuary, was dedicated in 1964.

The striking 1964 building was designed by Minoru Yamasaki, one of the most prominent architects of the 20th Century. Among other noteworthy projects, Yamasaki designed the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and Temple Beth El of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He and fellow architect Edward Durell Stone are generally considered to be the two master practitioners of the New Formalism architectural style.

Yamasaki composed the building as a series of arching fan vaults. The voids between the concrete shells of the fan vaults are filled with colored glass above and clear glass at eye level. Yamasaki describes his design as “a confluence of daylight and solids.” The building has been described as representative of “a period of post-war modernism that was characterized by assertive architectural gestures that had the strength and integrity to stand alone, without applied artwork or Jewish iconography.”