I should go back and take this picture from the median, so the bottom of the building doesn't get cut off. Oh well.
Westminster Hall is down the street from where I live. It is a bit of a mystery because I never see any activity there, yet the building is well-kept. At one time it was a meeting hall and synagogue. Eighty years ago one of the Lincoln's birthday celebrations in the city was held here. In October 1932 Reverend Rollin Dodd of All Souls Protestant Episcopal Church used Westminster Hall in services "for about sixty Negroes and seventeen white worshippers" as a protest to the racial segregation in the All Souls Church.
The most entertaining event I could find in old newspapers was the 21 July 1922 gambling raid of the Hall and a nearby building. The New York Times reports that nearby residents "have looked with suspicion and curiosity" as cabs "unloaded men, many of them gaudily clad and wearing jewelry" on recen afternoons. The police arrived that afternoon to find "a great uproar inside". There were flying chairs and men rolling on the floor in battle, allegedly over a "dispute on the payment of bets on a horse running at Belmont Park". The Times continues:
Brown seemed surprised when he learned of the arreset. He said the man who hired the hall for the afternoons told him that they intended to hold a series of prayer meetings. Brown added that his hall was used in the evening by a tango teacher.
Contrast that with the New-York Tribune's take on the raid:
Then into each of these religious scenes in turn were introduced the Hibernian persons of Inspector Ryan and Lieutenant McAuliffe...
Wistminster Hall... serves as a synagogue only for overflow services on Jewish holy days. At one end of the chamber is ablack case in which are stored away the articles used in the Hebrew ritual. This is surrounded by an embrodered canopy.
The hall was filled when the inspector and his cohorts entered. What religious atmosphere still clung to the place was supplied alone by the canopy. Men stood on chairs and yelled strange litanies like "Lazuli, 3 to 1" and Lady Theresa, 7 to 2."
The hall had been rented for the purpose of conducting a special synagogue service, so Jacob Brown, the owner of the building, said afterward. When the detectives came in a number of the gamblers evidently began to suffer qualms of conscience. They faced about and began reciting Hebrew prayers at the top of their voices. Their fellows, less religiously inclined, began a mad scramble for the stairs and fire escapes.
It is a shame we don't get writing like that in the newspapers anymore.