Happy Birthday Nathan Myers (b. Feb 2 1875, Newark, NJ)
by Samuel D. Gruber
Today is the 140th birthday a talented Newark-based Jewish architect Nathan Myers, who created on of the most celebrated synagogues of the 1920s along with many other buildings.
Nathan Myers lived his whole life in Newark. He was born Feb. 2, 1875 to Marcus and Julia Myers. He graduated from Cornell University’s College of Architecture in 1896 with a B.S. in architecture. Cornell was very welcoming to Jewish students had already graduated several successful young architects. Myers immediately began his practice of architecture in Newark in 1896 and worked in and around the city until his death in 1937. His best known work is the B’nai Abraham synagogue and social center in Newark, begun in 1922 and dedicated in 1924. Myers died in 1937.
Myers also was the architect of Beth El Synagogue in Waterbury, CT., built by Shapiro & Sons in 1929. Designed in a stripped down Byzantine style, with a prominent hemispheric dome, it was one of many synagogues of the period that helped prepare the country for the introduction of modernism after World War II.
Other known buildings were Lyceum Theater in Newark (1904); the Bamberger Broadcasting Company power station in Kearny, NJ; St. Ann's Villa at Convent Station, NJ; and St. Paul's AME Zion Church in Orange, NJ.
His best known late building was the 14-story Art Deco Hersch Tower in midtown Elizabeth, New Jersey. designed with Joseph Sanford Stanley, who worked for Myers in his Newark office after graduation from Princeton, from 1929 to 1935 (he would later gain prominence as an architect of religious buildings). Built in 1931 at the beginning of the Great Depression by businessman Louis F. Hersh, it was the tallest building in the city at the time.
According to Who's Who in American Jewry 1926, Nathan Myers married Estelle Gerber on January 1, 1901 and then remarried Minnie Rose Rich on May 21, 1922, in New York. He died in 1937. While several of his individual buildings are of note and worth saving when still extant and worth remembering when they are not, Myers is most interesting for the entirety of his career - which deserves more study. Nathan Myers is an example the third generation Jewish-American architect - professionally trained and deeply rooted to a particular place, where over the decades he made his mark. There were other Jewish architects like him Rochester and Albany, and further west. He was stylistically eclectic - but with strong classical leanings and ready to embrace more stripped-down modern decorative styles in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Many clients were probably Jewish - either businessmen or Jewish congregations. It is unclear to me whether Lewis F. Hersch of Elizabeth, whose grandfather ran C. Hersh & Sons Dry Goods Store begun in 1866, was Jewish or German, but I suspect the former.
If you have information about Nathan Myers, let me know.