One of the United Hebrew Congregation founding members, Gabriel Newburger, is credited with the inspiration of the temple’s architecture after bringing back his sketches of the magnificent Hagia Sophia, which is now a museum and is located in current day Istanbul, Turkey. Mr. Newburger was accompanied on this trip by his brother-in-law and business partner Solomon Newman, Sr. By 1910, Sol, his brother Albert Newman and their father Joseph Newman together with Gabe were all part of Newman Mercantile Company in Joplin.
Newspaper accounts touted the yet-to-be completed structure as a Byzantine-style building with Oriental trimmings and along the lines of a Hebrew temple and a Turkish mosque. The Oriental look was in vogue in Joplin around this time and examples of it could be seen in Schifferdecker Electrical Park’s Moorish entrance and towers (circa 1901-1914). The interior Oriental-style lobby was similar to the Turkish baths at the Elks Club Lodge (circa 1904).
October 1916 witnessed the Masonic cornerstone laying ceremony, which was attended by 600 people, to include every member of UHC, 225 Masons and visitors from the surrounding area. It was a gala event including speeches delivered by Rabbi Leiser and congregation president Morris Scherl.