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Historic Tel Aviv villa built by early city founders goes on the market

For just under $12 million, one of Tel Aviv’s most recognizable homes is looking for a new owner

Lilienblum Street 13 in Tel Aviv, March 2020. (Israel Preker, CC BY, Heritage Conservation Project - Tel-Aviv via the PikiWiki - Israel free image collection project @pikiwiki.org.il)
Lilienblum Street 13 in Tel Aviv, March 2020. (Israel Preker, CC BY, Heritage Conservation Project - Tel-Aviv via the PikiWiki - Israel free image collection project @pikiwiki.org.il)

A historic building at 13 Lilienblum Street in Tel Aviv is being put up for sale by its owner, a foreign national looking to capitalize on her real estate assets in Israel’s most in-demand property market.

The base price has been set at NIS 40 million (just under $12 million), or NIS 105,000 per square meter for the 378 square meter building, although the plot includes a further 537 square meters of gardens and grounds, business daily The Marker reported Tuesday.

The building broke ground in 1909, the same year Tel Aviv was established as a city. It was one of the first 66 houses on land allocated for a new area called Ahuzat Bayit, meaning House Estate or Homestead, which later became Tel Aviv.

Mordechai Veisser (also Weisser) and his wife Hannah emigrated from Ukraine to what was then still part of the Ottoman Empire in 1905 and became part of Tel Aviv’s pioneering group. When plots within the first part of the city were handed out, they built the house at 13 Lilienblum in what has been termed “the eclectic style” designed by building contractor Samuel Wilson. Although less well-known than the Bauhaus style, eclecticism was a parallel architectural trend that brought together elements from many different cultures within a single building.

The Veissers also built on the neighboring plot, number 15, although they settled at number 13, which became known as Beit Veisser (House of Veisser). The part they played in Tel Aviv’s founding is commemorated by a street that bears their names — Hannah and Mordechai Veisser Street, a stretch that connects Herzl Street with Kalisher Street.

In 1917, the Turks forcibly removed the entire Jewish civilian population of Jaffa and Tel Aviv, the Veissers and their children included. By the time the family was able to return to Tel Aviv, Mordechai Veisser had passed away of disease.

Mordechai and Hannah Veisser in an undated photo (Veisserd – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The building was, from early in its existence, split into apartments. Hannah Veisser lived on the first floor and collected rent from a series of lodgers on the second floor who included, at one time, Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

The city’s first police station was located in the house until 1933. After that, some of the space was used as a magistrate’s court for a time.

Moshe Veisser, the son of Hannah and Mordechai, inherited the house, but the quality of Lilienblum as a street gradually declined in his eyes. There is a record of a complaint from Moshe to the Tel Aviv municipality in the 1950s about a printing and smelting operation that had set up temporary premises in his front yard.

A rear office building was added to the house in 2001, and the whole villa was renovated. But when Tel Aviv was designated a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2003, 13 Lilienblum, unlike a number of its neighboring buildings, does not appear to have been explicitly listed for conservation.  Building rights are, however, reported to be restricted according to information about its sale.

Shortly after work had been completed, the first floor of 13 Lilienblum was rented by the Kabbala Center, which ran the majority of its Tel Aviv-based courses from the center, although activities currently appear to be suspended. It is said to have been paying NIS 50,000 a month in rent. The second floor has been maintained as a series of apartments – one of which, with 110 square meters and a 35 square meter balcony, three rooms, and two and a half bathrooms, was recently listed for rent at NIS 20,000 a month.

The identity of the current seller was not immediately known. She is being represented in the sale by a local law office and the potential buyers are Israeli citizens and residents, The Marker reported.

According to the Madlan property search site, other properties on Lilienblum have sold in the last couple of years for up to NIS 62,000 per square meter ($18,500).

Roughly a year ago, Bank Leumi is reported to have secured NIS 66 million ($19.7 million) for its four-floor office building on Lilienblum, though the market price was put at NIS 50 million ($14.9 million).

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