Near the end of the first week, the timber framers had completed the log walls and box frame. Though there was still quite a bit of work to do putting in the interior support structure, the next big step was to raise up a new anchor point: the ridge truss.
The ridge truss looks like a fin running across the center of the synagogue box frame. Eventually long rafters would be attached to the truss to form the triangular structure of the roof, but for now, only the truss would be going on. The timber framers began by laying out all the beams needed on top of the building and assembling each joint. Alicia Spence hoped that once they had everything strapped and pegged together, they could use the spider-crane to lift the truss into place in one piece. If the crane was not strong enough, they might have to fit the frame with human muscle power.
With permission from the safety manager, we fixed our camera onto a scissor lift so we could be with the truss as it went up.
And it was truly spectacular. There was a hairy moment as the truss went past the bottom edge of the glass box, but the timber framers never looked worried. The crane was able to raise the frame almost all the way to the top before it became too much strain. The last few inches were accomplished with careful application of human strength and ropes at either end.
Once the truss was in place, the painters could finally safely get in under the building to start installing the paintings. This process started with the four 30’ cove sections which wrap all the way around the inside of the log walls. This was made difficult by the fact that these boards, painted flat, would need to be installed at a gradual curve.
What the Handshouse crew expected might take a day to get installed ended up taking three days. Each board needed to be placed and adjusted against the following one in the row, and then shimmed against the next one up and down. Several times we watched them finish a cove, stand back to examine it, and take it all down again because of a mismatch in the painting or the curve. We began to feel the stress the Handshouse crew felt, knowing that the cove was only the beginning of the painting installation. The triangles, domes, pendantives, zodiac, and lantern still had to be worked out.
So it was with great joy that the painters were able to put in the triangle panels, which could be fitted as a single piece in a few minutes.
During this week we also had the opportunity to visit the Warsaw Jewish Cemetery with Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, head of the Museum’s team designing the Core Exhibition. The cemetery is a beautiful memory of the strength and size of the Jewish community in Warsaw and Poland before World War II. Barbara told us about how this relates to her personally and the overall mission of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
One of the pieces everyone was looking forward to seeing in place was the lantern. Because of the unusual shape of this section of the ceiling, the lantern was painted assembled. The whole lantern would go up as one object. Both teams gathered to move it into place on top of a scissor lift, which Alicia, again, hoped would be strong enough to lift the assembled lantern. With the press of a button, it rose up from the floor into its final position in the roof.
Now, with the lantern at the top and the cove at the bottom, everyone could see the great stretch of the dome of the Gwozdziec ceiling.
With time halfway run-out, there was still much more to do.