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Finding Aid of the Sidney Eisenshtat Papers 4000
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Collection Details
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  • Biographical Note
  • Preferred Citation
  • Scope and Content
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Arrangement
  • Custodial History Note

  • Title: Sidney Eisenshtat Papers
    Collection number: 4000
    Contributing Institution: USC Libraries Helen Topping Architecture & Fine Arts Library
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 26.0 boxes (32 linear feet) of project files, project-related materials, and memorabilia; and 54 drawers of architectural drawings and renderings.
    Date: 1935-1984
    Abstract: USC alumnus Sidney Eisenshtat was a prolific Los Angeles architect best known for his innovative modern synagogues and Jewish educational buildings, although he also designed many noteworthy commercial structures and schools, as well as residential projects, during his long career spanning from the late 1930s to the early 1980s. In May 1999, USC received his collection of office and personal materials that includes project-related documents, correspondence, drawings, photographs, and ephemera.
    creator: Eisenshtat, Sidney, 1914-2005

    Biographical Note

    Sidney Eisenshat (1914-2005) enjoyed a long and distinguished career as an architect whose practice was based in Los Angeles. Born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1914, Eisenshtat settled in Los Angeles in 1926 and graduated from the University of Southern California School of Architecture in 1935. In his early career, Eisenshtat worked on large projects for the United States Department of Defense and designed tract houses and retail stores in Los Angeles and surrounding Southern California communities.
    After he established his own firm, Eisenshtat, an observant Orthodox Jew, devoted much of his practice to religious architecture, becoming an influential architect of modern synagogues, as well as Jewish academic buildings and community centers. In 1951, he designed his first major religious work, Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills, which has often been compared to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. He later built many other synagogues and centers for Jewish study, such as the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles (1953), the Brandeis-Bardin House of the Book in Simi Valley (1954), the Mount Sinai Temple in El Paso, Texas (1956), Hillel House at USC (1969), and the University of Judaism in Bel-Air (1977). For Eisenshtat, these commissions expressed his devotion to Jewish traditions and values and he therefore performed much of his work for religious communities gratis. Each of his projects was unique in form, yet all displayed a minimalist sensibility that is characteristic of modernism and a sculptural robustness that recalls the work of Expressionist architects such as Eric Mendelsohn, whose innovative synagogues Eisenshtat greatly admired. Like Mendelsohn, Eisenshtat designed buildings with walls of thin-slab concrete or brick that were virtually devoid of decoration, but that were highly expressive through the use of simple materials and plentiful natural light. Sculpture, mosaics, and stained glass were often incorporated into Eisenshtat's work, but these elements remained subservient to the overall architectural design.
    Although his synagogues were among his most personal creations, Eisenshtat also applied his formidable talents as a designer to his many commercial projects. Until his retirement in the 1980s, Eisenshtat designed many noteworthy modern office buildings and other structures near the Wilshire Corridor in Beverly Hills, including the Friars Club (1959), which was a gathering place for many of the city's comedians and entertainers, and the Union Bank building (1960), which has become an unofficial neighborhood landmark.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Sidney Eisenshtat papers, Helen Topping Architecture and Fine Arts Library, USC Libraries, University of Southern California.

    Scope and Content

    The collection housed in twenty-six boxes and fifty-four drawers documents the professional career and life of Los Angeles architect Sidney Eisenshtat. The bulk of the collection consists of papers comprising correspondence with clients, engineering specifications, invoices, and cost calculations, among other kinds of records. The collection also contains a large number of drawings, renderings, and photographs relating to Eisenshtat's architectural projects, which range from his major religious and commercial works to his less well-known residential buildings.
    Series 1. Religious Buildings encompasses all of Eisenshtat's religious architecture, including his designs for synagogues and mortuary buildings, as well as community centers and educational institutions having a religious focus. Forty-two works dating from 1949-1984 are included, along with a group of miscellaneous projects that went unrealized. The projects are arranged chronologically, and extensive documentation exists for such major commissions as Central (Westside) Jewish Community Center (1950), Temple Emanuel (1952), Sinai Temple (1953), University of Judaism (1953), Brandeis-Bardin House of the Book (1954), and Hillel House USC (1969). Papers, photographs, and drawings are contained in fourteen boxes and thirty-one drawers.
    Series 2. Commercial and Residential Buildings covers all of Eisenshtat's commercial and residential work, including unbuilt projects, spanning from his earliest house design in 1936 to his last commercial construction in 1981. Arranged chronologically in eleven boxes and twenty-two drawers, the series contains papers and drawings for one hundred thirty-five projects, with extensive documentation for major works that include the Union Bank Building (1960) and the Sven Lokrantz School for Handicapped Children (1959-1977).
    Series 3. Professional and Personal Memorabilia is devoted to ephemera and memorabilia relating to Eisenshtat's professional career as an architect, his involvement with various religious and civic communities, his activities as a student at USC, and his family history. In addition, the series includes interview tapes and general administrative records from Eisenshtat's office. These materials are housed in eight boxes.

    Conditions Governing Access

    The collection is open for research use. Advance notice required for access.

    Conditions Governing Use

    The collection contains published materials; researchers are reminded of the copyright restrictions imposed by publishers on reusing their articles and parts of books. It is the responsibility of researchers to acquire permission from publishers when reusing such materials. The copyright to unpublished materials belongs to the heirs of the writers. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.


    The collection is organized into three series: Series 1. Religious Buildings; Series 2. Commercial and Residential Buildings; and Series 3. Personal and Professional Memorabilia.

    Custodial History Note

    In April 1985, a portion of the collection was loaned to the Skirball Museum, largely consisting of his Jewish related projects (previously identified as SE1-SE50). In May 1999, the entire collection was relocated to the USC Helen Topping Architecture and Fine Arts Library, including all available commercial and residential projects (identified as SE51-SE200).

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Eisenshtat, Sidney, 1914-2005
    Architecture, Modern--20th century--Archival resources
    Architecture--California--Los Angeles--History--20th century
    Jewish architecture--California--Los Angeles
    Synagogue architecture--California--Los Angeles