American Colony Hotel
The American Colony is just north of the Damascus Gate, next to the so-called seam between East and West Jerusalem. When Jordan controlled the eastern sector, from 1948 until 1967, a wall dividing the city ran in front of the hotel’s driveway. Built around a 19th-century Ottoman pasha’s mansion, the American Colony is the more intimate of the two properties (86 rooms versus 237). Its lobby, with stone archways and vaulted ceilings, is furnished with damascene inlaid tables and turquoise tiles. Oriental carpets cover polished stone floors. The interior courtyard is a tranquil oasis, with no hint of the turbulent times when shells and sniper fire rained down on it during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. The hotel was caught in the crossfire again during the 1967 Six-Day War. The American Colony is popular with Christian pilgrims and secular Israelis, who crowd the Saturday buffet lunch The hotel got its name from a group of strictly religious Christians who emigrated from Chicago in 1881 and purchased the pasha’s mansion, transforming it into a commune devoted to charitable work. They began taking paying guests in the early 1900’s. The hotel expanded and grew posh after the community disbanded in the 1940’s; today, it belongs to 35 descendants of the founders. A matriarch named Valentine Vester oversaw several renovations, and in 2007 the American Colony joined the King David as a member of the Leading Hotels of the World.