The excavation area was located at the northern end of the Noga compound, at the intersection of Jerusalem Boulevard and Elat Street (Fig. 2), which is also where some of Yafo’s main nineteenth–twentieth century CE streets crossed paths (Yinnon 2001:235–306; Giler 2016:53–62). The plot was previously occupied by a building whose records contain plans, documents, and photographs of construction and renovation carried out during the Ottoman period, the British Mandate era (1925–1929), and after the establishment of the State of Israel (1957, 1986, 2009). Maps and aerial photographs from the early twentieth century show a one-story building on the site (Baedeker 1906:8–9; Shifman 2015:6–7), which served as a packing house for the Mustakim family citrus orchards (Navon 2019:38) and possibly also a cinema (Herut, daily newspaper, 29.01.1914, p. 1), as proposed by S. Giler (pers. comm.). In 1925, the architect J. Berlin redesigned the building for Ali Effendi Mustakim, converting it into a two-story structure that housed a branch of the Anglo-Palestine Bank and its successor, Bank Leumi (Fig. 3; Weinberg, Geiker and Margolis 2009; Shifman 2015). The structure underwent alterations over the years but was not declared a protected building and was demolished in October 2016 (Shifman 2015:2; Navon 2019:38, 40).
A previous excavation conducted nearby on Razi’el Street uncovered a road, drainage systems and cesspits from the end of the Ottoman period, as well as pottery dating from the Iron Age to the late Ottoman period (Fig. 1: A-5322, A-5733; Jakoel and Marcus 2017; Sion and Rapuano 2017). Another excavation on Jerusalem Boulevard to the south of the current excavation uncovered remains of Hellenistic walls and floors, the foundations of a large Ottoman period building, pottery from the Iron Age to the Crusader and Ottoman periods, glass fragments, and coins (Fig. 1: A-5565; Jakoel 2011; Jakoel and Marcus 2017). Buildings from the Ottoman period were also excavated on Kaufman Street (Fig. 1: A-5667; Bouchenino 2010; Jakoel and Marcus 2017).
The current excavation (200 sq m; Fig. 4) unearthed a building with three phases of construction dating from the end of the Ottoman period (Stratum III; late nineteenth–early twentieth century CE), the British Mandate era (Stratum II; first half of the twentieth century CE), and the period following the establishment of the State of Israel (Stratum I; second half of the twentieth century CE). Limited test trenches that dug no deeper than the building’s foundations (Fig. 5) recovered Ottoman pottery and a handful of earlier dating ceramics (not drawn).
Stratum III. The excavation uncovered the walls of a building built of dressed kurkar stones bonded with gray mortar set on foundations of broken kurkar stones bonded with red mortar. In the western part of the area, three walls (W101, W117, W125) defined a rectangular east–west oriented room (Room 1; Fig. 6). Inside the room, three pairs of parallel pilasters were unearthed (W116/W144, W118/W146, W119/W124). A floor of black and light-gray cement tiles (L134; tile size 0.30 × 0.30 m; Fig. 7) laid on a white mortar makeup abutted W117 in the room’s southeastern corner.
In the northeastern part of the area, another wing of the building was unearthed, delineated by two walls (W105, W126). It consisted of three rectangular north–south oriented rooms (Rooms 2–4) that were only partially preserved. Two partition walls (W102, W110) differentiated these rooms.
In the southern part of the area, c. 5 m from the southeastern corner of Room 1, a wall (W153) was uncovered beside collapsed building rubble (L155; 2.0 × 2.2 m; Fig. 8), 1.2 m to the west. The rubble comprised a large mass of kurkar stones with rectangular concrete casts (each measuring 0.20 × 0.20 × 0.48 m) attached to its western side. It probably derives from the building’s upper parts. A small section of another wall (W111) uncovered south of W153 was part of the building’s outer wall. Another wall section (W108), on the excavation’s northern edge, was part of the building’s northern outer wall.
Stratum II. Changes made in this phase introduced modern materials and included the construction of new walls that altered the structure’s internal division. In Room 1, three new walls were built (W113, W114, W120), delimiting new spaces whose complete layout was not preserved. The corner of Walls 113 and 120 was built of silicate bricks set in cast concrete, while hollow concrete blocks were incorporated in W120. Walls 113 and 114 were also built of silicate bricks but with a kind of concrete belt at the base that provided a foundation for the walls. Similar concrete belts were also added to pre-existing Walls 111 and 153 on the area’s southern boundary, delimiting another room (Room 6).
Stratum I. The main alterations attributed to this phase comprise the strengthening of walls and foundations with reinforced concrete mixed with gravel. In Rooms 2–4, square cast-concrete bases were poured into the walls (W109, W131, W148) or beside them (W103, W106, W107, W135, W154). A concrete belt (W112) cast on top of W110 is wider at its northern end. At the northern end of Room 2, a concrete floor (L104) was cast, and its surface was smoothed. The corner of Stratum II Walls 113 and 120 in Room 1 was reinforced with a thick, L-shaped cast-concrete belt (W157; width 0.38–0.60 m) and a square concrete foundation (W156). In the area between Wall 117 and Wall 128, a floor of tiles made of concrete mixed with gravel was laid (L132; tile size 0.30 × 0.30 m; Fig. 7). A plastic sewage pipe was incorporated into one of the cast-concrete features. Collapsed rubble (L100) discovered above the remains of the building originates from its demolished upper parts.
The Finds. The rubble (L100) that covered the area contained a few fragments of hollow terracotta bricks with square holes. The bricks are stamped with the manufacturing marks of the Roux Frères factory in Marseille (Fig. 9; Vincenz 2019:6, Fig. 7:4). The rubble also yielded fragments of a thick glass bottle (not drawn) bearing a partial inscription in relief (CONSTANTIN) and a thin perforated Constantinople minted silver coin of the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Abdulmejid (1255–1277 AH; 1839–1861 CE). This coin may have been worn as a piece of jewelry. Beside Pilaster 124 and W101, small fragments of Marseille tiles and a few body fragments of Ottoman jars were found (not drawn). Several pottery fragments that precede the Ottoman period but could not be dated with further precision were also recovered (not drawn). The northwestern corner of Room 5 contained an accumulation of dark brown soil (L165) that yielded several pottery fragments from the end of the Ottoman period (late nineteenth–early twentieth centuries CE): two local Kraters (Fig. 10:1, 2), a bowl with a translucent green glaze over white stripes (Fig. 10:3), Black-Gray Gaza Ware bowl and Jar (Fig. 10:4, 5) and a locally made jar (Fig. 10:6).
Room 1 was probably the building’s ancient nucleus, and the pairs of pilasters may have supported a cross vault (Shifman 2015:4). The fact that the tiles from the room’s southeastern corner are black and light gray suggests that they are of the earliest locally manufactured types, from before the introduction of colors (Wiedrich 2003:18). The pottery from beside the room’s northern wall foundation also dates the building’s construction to the end of the Ottoman period. Rooms 2–4 were probably built slightly later, although, at first, they were not reinforced with pilasters. The kurkar stones, gray mortar and red bonding material used in Stratum III are typical of Yafo’s late Ottoman architecture (Jakoel and Marcus 2017:46*–52*).
The silicate brick walls, one of which incorporated hollow blocks, are attributed to Stratum II and are no earlier than 1925 (Shifman 2015:2) when the Silicate Brick Factory in Tel Aviv was founded and mass production had begun, persisting throughout the country for over forty years (Gophna 2011:161, 163, 168). These walls are probably attributable to the architect J. Berlin, who redesigned the building and is known to have widely employed silicate bricks (Shifman 2015:37). The concrete belts also appear to be of Stratum II, attributed to the British Mandate era. However, the possibility that some of them were cast later cannot be ruled out. The cast concrete that contained a plastic sewage pipe is attributed to Stratum I, the last phase of the building’s existence.
The excavation uncovered a building constructed in the late Ottoman period, subsequently undergoing modifications during and after the British Mandate era. Since the structure was razed to its foundations before the excavation, the division into phases is based on the building materials and construction methods. The changes in construction materials and methods reflect the transition from local building traditions (with kurkar stones and red mortar) to modern construction materials (cement, concrete and silicate bricks; Aleksandrowicz 2010:76–85). The excavation contributes to our understanding of Yafo’s architectural history and reflects a chapter in the city’s past.