The Stern House is a small museum, bookstore, and outdoor café in Mamilla next to the Jaffa Gate of the Old City. The house was built during Ottoman rule in 1877 in Mamilla, one of the original neighborhoods outside the city walls.
The Stern House in Mamilla is notable for accommodating Theodor Herzl during his visit to Jerusalem in 1898. The building fell into disrepair over the years and was rescued during a major reconstruction of the Mamila neighborhood in the late 20th and early 21st century. The numbers on the home bricks were used to disassemble and rebuild the house brick by brick.
Today, the beautifully reconstructed and preserved historic house serves as the Jerusalem flagship store of the Steimatzky bookstore chain and includes an outdoor cafe and a small museum.
History of the Stern House
The house was initially built in 1877 for the Yehuda Stern family, who had recently emigrated from Germany. During the Ottoman period, Yehuda Stern found that the Old City was too busy and overcrowded for his family, so he purchased a plot of land at 18 Mamilla Street from the Greek Orthodox Church in the then-new urban expansion area of Mamilla just outside the Jaffa Gate.
The European-style house served as a home for several generations of the Stern family, who lived in the building for decades.
Theodor Herzl Visit
Theodor Herzl spent four nights at the Stern House on a visit to Jerusalem in 1898. Herzl arrived in Jerusalem in 1898 at the same time as German Emperor Wilhelm II, who was on a historic visit to the Levant to strengthen German influence in the city. The emperor’s entourage requisitioned Herzl’s hotel room, so he ended up staying at the Stern House at the invitation of Michael Stern, son of Yehuda.
The Stern family later turned the room where Herzl stayed into a small museum, documenting his visit to the city. The Herzl Room in the house was operated by Yehuda Stern’s great-grandchildren and was open throughout the era of the historic Mamilla neighborhood.
Development and Preservation
In the 1970s, it was decided to redevelop the historic Mamilla neighborhood, and an agreement was reached to preserve the Stern House and several other significant buildings. The Stern House building was disassembled, and its stones were marked, numbered, and moved to a storage area near the construction project.
After years of delays in construction and legal complications, the Stern House was finally put back together after being stored away for a decade.
Today, the building houses the Jerusalem flagship store of the Steimatzky bookstore chain, along with a charming outdoor cafe. The lower level of the building houses a small museum focusing on the history of the bookstore chain and Herzl’s visit to Jerusalem.
The museum exhibits Israeli bank notes featuring portraits of Herzl, photographs of Herzl in Jerusalem, and the hat he wore on his visit to Jerusalem. It also features photographs of the long-vanished Steimatzky branch in Beirut, Lebanon, depicting the history of the Steimatzky chain. The store’s branches in Beirut, Baghdad, Cairo, and Damascus were all nationalized after establishing the State of Israel in 1948.