The Palace Hotel

For several years, a large building on Agron Street in Jerusalem stood empty. Last May, the renovation of this building, which has a glorious past, ended. It has now returned to fulfill its original designation as a luxury hotel. The hotel, originally named the Palace Hotel, has been renamed the Waldorf Astoria.
The entrance to the Palace Hotel , 1931 (PHO\1353371)
Maximum investment, minimum time
The Palace Hotel was built by the Supreme Muslim Council, headed by Haj Amin al-Husseini, in order to highlight the presence of Muslims in Jerusalem, and to serve as a barrier between them and the adjacent Jewish neighborhoods. The building was built on Agron Street, near the Mamilla Pool, according to the plans of the architect Nahas Bey’s. The constructors were the Jews Tuvia Dounie and Baruch Katinka. The construction began in 1928, and lasted 13 months. The Mufti wanted the Palace Hotel to open before the nearby King David Hotel was set to open, and did whatever he could to expedite the construction. During the digging of the foundation, the workers came across ancient Muslim graves. The Mufti ordered that this be kept a secret, and that the graves be moved so that the construction of the building would not be stopped.
The entrance hall of the Palace Hotel,1936 (NZO\634449)The inauguration of the hotel was held on December 1929 and was attended by British government officials and distinguished Jews and Arabs. The Palace Hotel was the most luxurious hotel in Jerusalem at that time: it had and impressive entrance hall, marble arabesque decorations, 140 guests rooms with modern amenities in every room, four-poster beds and private telephones. Despite the investment, the Palace Hotel was utilized as a hotel for only a few years. Even though it was opened before the King David Hotel, fierce rivalry existed between the two hotels and the Palace Hotel lost the battle. The hotel eventually closed in 1935.
Office Building
After the hotel closed, it was leased by the British Government and became an office building and various departments were moved to the hotel building. The studios of the British radio station, “Voice of Jerusalem”, even operated from the building for a couple of years.
With the outbreak of the Arab revolt of 1936-1939, the Peel Commission arrived in Palestine to investigate the events. The commission’s meetings were held at the Palace Hotel, although ironically, the members of the commission stayed at King David Hotel. Baruch Katinka, the constructor of Palace hotel, was also a member in the Haganah. Since he knew the building very well he knew where to install microphones so that the Zionist leadership would know what was said at closed meetings of the commission.
The opening meeting of the Peel Commission, 1936 (NZO\634332)
Back to being a hotel
After the State of Israel was established, the building came into its possession. For a long period of time various offices of the State operated from the hotel building. In 1981 a plan to renovate the hotel was approved. The implementation of the plan was delayed until 1999, when the Regency Company bought the building. Even then, the hotel renovation works were postponed until the Second Intifada ended. And then in 2006 the Reichmann family from Canada bought the hotel, and finally began the renovation. In the course of the repairs carried out on the building, the owners strove to stay true to the original structure, and as a result the front of the hotel has been carefully restored. You are invited to take a look at the impressive hotel as it was photographed in the thirties.