Much about the streetscape of the Lower East Side has changed dramatically in the past 50 or 200 years, but not all of it, not by a long shot. The elaborately carved wooden doors of the Eldridge Street Synagogue first swung open in 1887, and despite its advanced age, it's still looking just lovely—now. But it didn't always.

Eldridge Street was one of the first synagogues in the U.S. built by Ashkenazi Jews, and was a wildly popular destination to worship through the 1920s. And with good reason. As the critic Mi Yodka wrote in 1887:

The building, which fronts on Eldridge Street, looks quite imposing, standing in the neighborhood as it does, and makes even a better impression on stepping into its interior, which is distinguished by an elegant simplicity and plentiful supply of air and light from the many and high windows.

Beauty aside, the synagogue was also an important cultural hub for recently arrived immigrants, offering services ranging from meals to help securing housing and loans to arrangements for the sick and dying. But after a heyday that lasted around 50 years, membership finally began to decline as the result of relocation by members and the implementation of stricter immigration policies. By the 1950s, rain leaked through the ceiling and the inner stairs of the sanctuary threatened to crumble.

By the 1980s, the synagogue was no longer the grande dame of Eldridge Street, and the stunning Moorish Revival building served primarily as a home for pigeons. Inside, the once polished benches were layered in dust, and the celebrated stained glass windows had warped. Without emergency stabilization, it was likely that the building itself would collapse.

In 1986, the Eldridge Street Project—later, the Museum at Eldridge Street—undertook what would ultimately become a 20-year, $18.5 million renovation. "The guiding ethos behind the restoration was to return the synagogue to its original grandeur while retaining elements that revealed its rich story," the museum says on its website. "We did not want the synagogue to look like a newborn baby but rather a well-maintained and absolutely loved 120-plus-year-old building."

The synagogue has since been restored to...well, check out the photos above. While returning to its former glory, the museum took care to hang on to some relics of the past, including an exposed panel of lath and plaster in the women’s balcony that recalls its period of decline. It's home to a full calendar of cultural events and services now, but the worn grooves in the floorboards from the tread of so many feet imply that its past won't soon be forgotten.