It’s older than the Salt Lake LDS Temple, and for $2.5M, it could be yours

The historic B’nai Israel Temple just outside of downtown hit the market last week.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The B'nai Israel Temple, a historic former synagogue, on 400 East in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023.

It predates the Salt Lake Temple. It served as a place of worship for over eight decades. It now boasts a modern interior with office space. And it all could be yours for a mere $2.5 million.

The B’nai Israel Temple at 249 S. 400 East hit the market last week, offering potential buyers the opportunity to own a slice of Salt Lake City history that has been updated inside with contemporary flourishes.

“It’s definitely what I believe is one of the coolest buildings in Salt Lake,” said Kip Paul, vice chair of investment sales for real estate company Cushman & Wakefield.

The firm is pitching the building as “an opportunity for office users, retailers, fitness or art studios” or others to take over a historic site.

In a Sept. 27, 1890, story about the temple’s construction, The Salt Lake Tribune wrote that the building would be “an ornament to the city.” At the time it was placed in the northeast corner of the building, the cornerstone contained a 10-inch-by-14-inch box stuffed with mementos, including a copy of the previous day’s Tribune.

Henry Monheim, who worked on Salt Lake City Hall, was the temple’s supervising architect.

The B’nai Israel Temple, dedicated in 1891, served as a synagogue for Jewish Utahns for decades before being sold in the early 1970s, when a new temple arose from the merger that created Congregation Kol Ami. It has since housed several businesses and currently is home to furniture dealer HB Workplaces.

Part of an addition to the building will be demolished and is not included in the sale. The temple is surrounded by land that is slated for apartments.

Paul said there’s nothing stopping new owners from leveling the building if they choose, but he doesn’t want to see that happen.

“You can do what you want,” he said, “but clearly, the plan is to keep the building.”

Preservationist David Amott said the temple symbolizes a relatively small Jewish community in late-1800s Utah asserting itself in a proud and interesting way. Those who supported the development of the synagogue, he said, had the city and its decoration in mind when they designed and constructed the place of worship.

“They’re really building for all of Salt Lake,” he said, “which I think is wonderful.”

Amott said buildings like the synagogue connect people to one another, shape cities’ identities and link heaven to Earth. He hopes the next owner doesn’t lose sight of what the building means to generations past and present.

“Sell it,” he said, “to someone who preserves it.”