The American Colony of Tel Avivis located in the south of the Tel Aviv, not far from Jaffa, and is quite possibly one of the best-kept secrets in town. Situated between the Florentin and Noga neighborhoods, this small and quaint area has a very unique look, feel, and history. Walking down the cobblestone streets, you’ll be surprised to see wooden homes, a stained-glass church, and a mix of both high-end building projects as well as deteriorated & abandoned structures. The American Colony is an off-the-beaten track gem not far from the heart of Tel Aviv.
History of The American Colony
The Maine Friendship House in Tel Aviv’s American Colony. Image Tamareh
The history of The American Colony in Tel Aviv dates back to 1866 when a group of over 150 Christian Americans from Maine and the New England region decided to follow their faith and vision and settle in Palestine. Led by George Adams, these families made a 42-day journey overseas and landed where the Etzel Museum stands today, on the beach between Tel Aviv and Jaffa. They brought with them the wood and materials to resurrect their homes in the New England style, and when they were granted permission from the Ottomans, settled in what has come to be called “The American Colony.”
After a few years, the families became very ill and many dispersed to Europe or returned to Maine. New, German settlers, from the Templar Movement, purchased much of the land and buildings which the Americans had constructed. In 1904, the Germans added the Immanuel Church, which still stands today – along with the Beit Immanuel Hostel – which was the main office, school, and community hall of the German Temple Society in 1873. Today, it is a guesthouse housing Protestant pilgrims, but its beautiful garden and rooms are open to all.
The Immanuel Church, added by the Germans. Image Degser
During WWI and WWII, the British authorities deported many of the Germans or put them under police supervision, and much of the area was deemed enemy alien property. With the establishment of the State of Israel, the land fell into the custody of new Israeli government. Religious places (such as the Immanuel Church), remained in public custody, but secular structures fell under the jurisdiction of the government.
Over the years, the neighborhood became neglected and deteriorated. Today, you’ll see many crumbling ruins if you visit the area, however, there has a been a surge of restoration and development in recent years, which brings a new spotlight and hope to the old decaying buildings
Things to do in The American Colony
For such a tiny neighborhood, there are actually a lot of things to do in the American Colony. Plus, there are many options within walking distance, including a visit to the cafes, art studios, and boutique clothing shops of Noga – or the opportunity to check out the more “hipster” neighborhood of Florentine. Being within walking distance to Jaffa, the sea, Neve Tzedek, and Hatachana, you will have plenty to see, taste, and experience!
Typical street scene in the American Colony Neighborhood. Image Jessica Jaffe
For a chance to walk through history, do not miss the Maine Friendship House. Owned and restored by American couple Jean and Reed Holmes, this is one of the best preserved and renovated wooden homes from the late 19th century. The doors are open for free to the public on Fridays and Saturdays. Jean and Reed live there 6 months out of the year and will likely welcome you at the door and give you their own personal tour.
Step into a Neo-Gothic style church built over 100 years ago by the German Templars. The Immanuel Church is open for visitors from Tuesday to Friday, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. The church has a red tiled pointed roof and includes several colorful stained glass windows. About once a month, there is a pipe organ or choir concert and every Saturday, anyone passing by can hear the singing from the congregation during prayers.
For a contrast to the old side of The American Colony, make a quick stop at The Village, a new residential complex. Unlike other parts of Tel Aviv, the architecture here is very reminiscent of the American New England 19th century colonial style, using many details from the historical home. The complex contains a public piazza which contains one original building of the neighborhood.
Jessica Jaffe lived in the Tel Aviv American Colony area until recently. She can be found on Twitter @Jess_Jaffe