Beth Sholom Synagogue
Credit: Jay Reed, Flickr

John Hanson says he is both "impressed" and "humbled" working on a project at Beth Sholom, the only synagogue by legendary archictect Frank Lloyd Wright. And given Wright's history of designing buildings, "challenged" is another description the Philadelphia area remodeler easily could use.

Hanson, owner of Hanson General Contracting, has begun work installing an elevator to provide handicapped access in the 65-year-old building. It’s the only synagogue Wright designed and has been a National Historic Landmark since 2007. Hanson also was involved in a project at Beth Sholom four years ago, when an exhibit was installed giving the history of the place.

One of Hanson’s challenges is to install a device that depends on straight lines into a building where no walls are plumb and the roof is translucent. “It’s really an ambitious piece of architecture,” Hanson says. “Each piece of glass on the roof is 200 to 300 pounds. No walls are plumb or square—by design. It’s eccentric.” Working with architect John Milner, he’s taking over a stairwell for the new elevator. Work should be complete by early October.

“One thing we can confirm is that, as with Falling Water, he comes up with really cool, ambitious architecture that is memorable and humbling,” Hanson says. “But the detailing of it. … the roof has leaked since it was built. That’s what happens with his work. It’s really challenging to get it to perform.”