Mishkenot Sha’ananim derives its name from "My people will abide in peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings and in quiet resting places" (Isaiah 32:18).
The windmill, adjacent cottages and almshouses opposite the Old City, built by Sir Moses Montefiore, as the executor of a fund left by the American Jewish pioneer Judah Touro (1775 1854) who directed that $60,000 be dispensed to relieve poverty and provide freedom of worship to Jews in Palestine.
The building was dedicated in 1861 and held 20 families.
Mishkenot Sha’ananim was designed by W.R. Smith, a British architect, who incorporated in the construction red-tiled roofs imported from Marseilles, and ornate ironwork grilles and arches from Montefiore’s hometown of Ramsgate.
The original structure consisted of 16 spacious apartments (an additional building with four more apartments was added later), each with two rooms and a kitchen.
Two synagogues, one Ashkenazi and one Sephardi, were also built, as well as a mikve (ritual bath), a well with a small hand-pump (deemed a modern day marvel at the time), and individual gardens for each apartment.
Safety was an enormous problem in those days, particularly for the first residents. The isolation of the new quarter made it a real hazard.
Every night the gates of the Old City were closed, as were the gates of the new settlement.
Only in 1898 were the city gates finally left open around the clock.Originally fortified because of frequent Bedouin raids (which kept the gates of Jerusalem closed at night), it was abandoned after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War due to sniper attacks.
After 1967, it was made into a guest house for artists, which it remains today.