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  • Writer's pictureGedaliah Borvick

Jerusalem Architecture in the Late Ottoman Period

Sergei Courtyard, whose ownership was transferred to Russia in 2008. (CC BY-SA 2.5 Tamar Hayardeni)

Part of what makes Jerusalem the mecca of Israeli tourism is its rich tapestry of architecture. In this article, we focus on architecture employed at the end of the Ottoman Period, an era covering the second half of the 1800s. Future articles will discuss the architecture of the British Mandate period (1917 to 1948), and architectural styles adopted in Jerusalem since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.

Until 1860, almost all of Jerusalem’s residents lived in the Old City. As the population grew and the Old City became overcrowded, new neighborhoods - known as the “New Yishuv” - were built. Let’s take a look at some distinctive buildings that were developed during the end of the Ottoman Period.

Mishkenot Sha’ananim

In 1855, British banker Sir Moses Montefiore, serving as the executor of a fund left by American philanthropist Judah Touro, bought ten acres of land and later established Mishkenot Sha’ananim (literally “tranquil dwellings,” derived from Isaiah 32:18), the first Jewish neighborhood outside the Old City. Designed to reflect the motif of the Old City walls, the complex included residences, a windmill, plus communal and religious facilities. Today, Mishkenot Sha’ananim, part of the charming residential neighborhood named Yemin Moshe after Sir Moses, contains a guest house, a convention center and a music center - and the famous windmill has been converted into a museum.

Ticho House

In 1912, Dr. Abraham Ticho immigrated to Palestine and opened an eye clinic in Jerusalem. His cousin Anna, a renowned artist, followed him and they were married later that year. In 1924, the Tichos moved into an 1864-vintage house on what is now called Harav Kook Street, just steps away from the home and yeshiva of the first Chief Rabbi. Dr. Ticho ran his eye clinic on the first floor of his home until his death in 1960. The building design is typically Arab, with its central hall, massive stone walls and domed roof. Today, Ticho House is part of the Israel Museum; on display are Anna Ticho’s paintings and Dr. Ticho’s collection of menorahs. Ticho House, with its library, beautiful terraced garden and restaurant (my wife recommends the onion soup), has become a popular venue for cultural events.

The Russian Compound

The Russian Compound, with its strong Byzantine architectural influence, was built in the early 1860s to serve the many Russian pilgrims who traveled to Jerusalem. Spread over 18.5 acres, the beautiful compound consisted of hostels, a church, hospice and consulate. Israel purchased most of the property in 1964 from the Russian Orthodox Patriarch in the “Orange deal,” as Israel paid for the property with $3.5 million worth of oranges. The Jerusalem municipality was subsequently built onsite and many government offices are housed in the compound’s buildings. In March 2011, the State handed over to the Russian government a portion of the buildings called Sergei’s Courtyard, which in 2008 then-Prime Minister Olmert agreed to give to Putin as a “good will gesture.” In response, Russia condemned Israel's actions in the 2008-2009 Gaza War.

The German Colony

The German Colony was established by members of the Temple Society, a German Protestant sect of the Lutheran Church. In 1873, the Templers purchased a large tract of land situated in the Refaim Valley southwest of the Old City, and built a colony similar to villages in Germany: one- and two-story farmhouses with green shutters, red tile roofs and fenced-in gardens, using local Jerusalem stone instead of the traditional wood and brick materials. During World War II, the British government deported the Templers as enemy aliens and Nazi sympathizers, and in 1948 the German Colony became home to new olim. Many of these homes have been restored, and they add to the quaint charm of Emek Refaim.


Gedaliah Borvick is the founder of “My Israel Home,” a real estate agency focused on helping people from abroad buy and sell homes in Israel.

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