An impressive turn of the century building at the corner of North Broad and Dauphin is up for sale as a freestanding commercial space, and, though the listing makes no mention of its history, one look would be enough to determine that it's not just any potential restaurant. It's actually the former location of Congregation Mikveh Israel (the oldest formal Jewish congregation in the nation), sandwiched between two colleges.
One of the colleges, located right next door to the former synagogue is Dropsie College. The college's founder, Moses Aaron Dropsie, established the college after his death by leaving his entire estate for its startup fund. The college was to provide instruction in "Hebrew and cognate lanugages", and there was to be "no discrimination on account of creed, color or sex" in the admissions process.
According to the Penn Librarians, Dropsie was an unusual institution for its time, because it provided an environment where non-Jews (the majority of its students weren't Jewish) could "study post-Biblical Jewish texts of classical rabbinics". It stayed at its Broad Street address until the early eighties, when, after an arson attack, the college moved to a temporary location in Lower Merion (the college later became part of UPenn).
Behind the old synagogue is a smaller college, Gratz College, that was established by the congregation in 1897. It seems that this college, which was a Hebrew teacher's college, predated, and perhaps inspired the creation of Dropsie College (Moses Dropsie was an officer of Gratz College). Though Gratz college is still in operation, its campus has moved to Melrose Park, PA.
The listing notes that the former synagogue has 6,000 sq ft of usable space, that it's asking $800K, and that it includes off street parking, but makes no mention of its distinguished neighbors or past.
· 2321 North Broad [LoopNet]
· Dropsie College [Crossing The Lines]
· The Professionalization of Wisdom: The Legacy of Dropsie College and Its Library [UPenn Library]