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History of the Arthur and Sara Jo Kobacker Building

Building History
​The earliest reference to the lot now known as 2027 Massachusetts Avenue is found in 1858. In 1869, its owners, Bowie and Snowdon, sold the lot to B.D. Carpenter as part of a subdivision named “Brothers Joint Interest” or “Nonesuch.” At this time, there were prohibitions attached to the property, including no manufacturing, no mechanical purposes, and no sale of liquors. Over the following twenty years, there were at least three other owners of the land. By 1892, a brick structure stood on the land. 

In 1887, the owner was James G. Blaine, a politician from Maine who in his career served as a U.S. Representative from Maine, Speaker of the House, a U.S. Senator, Secretary of State (under two separate Presidents), and Republican nominee for President in 1884 (losing the election when he lost New York by just over a thousand votes). Interestingly, Blaine’s name lives on in the “Blaine Amendments,” provisions in many state constitutions that prohibit the use of state funds to support "sectarian" schools. 

The building’s history becomes muddled in the early 1900s when a fire destroyed many local records. One reference mentions that the 1892 building still stood in 1903, and in 1911 the current 10,000-square-foot building was built as a one-family house. The current building was sold at least four more times between 1929 and 1956. In the early 1950s, it became an art school, and later, an embassy. In 1961 Robert and Charlotte Patterson sold the building to “a religiousOhiocorporation,” or more specifically to the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and a year later the building was dedicated as the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
Outside of the RAC building
Renovation and New Features
In 2003, the RAC underwent a "top-to-bottom" renovation of the historic building with six important goals in mind: 

  •   Making our facilities accessible to all -- illustrating inclusion as a core value of Reform Judaism;
  •   Building better facilities for seminars and other meetings;
  •   Integrating new technologies to enhance the RAC’s ability to serve and support congregations and coalitional allies;
  •   Making the renovated building as “green” as possible, reducing our energy consumption and taking other steps to create an environmentally friendly building; and
  •   Significantly upgrading the building’s security systems.

"Green" Building and Environmental Footprint
The Reform Jewish Movement has been committed to protecting the environment for more than thirty years. In December 2001, Aspen Systems Corporation on behalf of ENERGY STAR for Congregations (a program sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency) conducted an audit of the building specifically aimed at planning for our renovation. Recommendations for improvements to the renovated RAC building have resulted in the saving of thousands of dollars in energy costs even as it sets an example for Union for Reform Judaism congregations to incorporate energy-saving improvements in their own buildings. Specifically:

  •   Our energy provider guarantees us 100% renewable energy through community purchasing
  •   The building uses efficient windows with insulated glazing;
  •   We have chosen compact fluorescent lighting throughout the building, and have installed motion detectors to turn off lights when rooms are unoccupied;
  •   We have installed “low volume” toilets rather than flush valve toilets to save water, and “Energy Star” rated appliances to save energy. 
  •   Wherever possible, we have used “green materials,” such as natural brick and linoleum rather than vinyl tile.

The Kivie and Emily Kaplan Conference Center
Most of the RAC's basement has now been converted into a 90-seat conference center, eliminating the continuing need for the RAC to rent meeting space for many of its smaller conferences and meetings. The RAC always has been proud of the role our building has played in providing a meeting place for many in the public interest community.