In 1912, there was just enough money to erect the building. When it was done, there was no Ark, no bima, and no seats. Everyone brought chairs from home and sat in their own seats. Congregants quite literally "had their own seat at shul"!
In 1917, Wellesley College was junking some old school desks. So the "junkies" hitched up their horses and wagons, travelled over five miles of what was then farmland, and hauled back the first permanent seating in the sanctuary.
These desks had cast iron frames, and the seat for the student in front attached to the desk of the student behind. They were bolted down, in rows of four on each side of the sanctuary. The space available between them is what determined the width of the bima and the Ark when they were added in 1924.
One of these desks is on display as a historical exhibit downstairs in the Social Hall. Imagine all those grown men hunched over those tiny desks!
The shul's present seating was acquired in 1956 from Congregation Kehillat Israel in Brookline, which was removing its old benches.
They are a perfect match for the shul, since they were manufactured at the time of the shul's construction.
(If the founders had had money for seating, this is what they'd have bought.)
The first seating to be owned by the congregation for use in the women's gallery consisted of Windsor chairs. (At some point these fell into disuse, and folding chairs were then used in the balcony.)
Four of these original Windsor chairs are preserved (and used) in the shul office.
In the mid-1990's, we had a replicas of the downstairs benches crafted to add to the women's balcony, replacing the folding chairs. (See photo at right.)