Mea Shearim is one of the oldest Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. It was built by members of the Old Yishuv, and is largely populated with Haredi Jews. Levi Kahana of Spain, the oldest Sephardic Haredi dynasty, has a religious cultural center in the neighborhood.
Meir Auerbach, the chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Jerusalem, was one of the founders of the neighborhood. Conrad Schick, a German Christian architect, drew up the first blueprint for Mea Shearim in 1846. Mea Shearim, one of the earliest Jewish settlements outside the walls of the Old City, was established in 1874 by a building society of 100 shareholders. Pooling their resources, the society members purchased a tract of land outside the walled city, which was severely over-crowded and plagued by poor sanitation, and built a new neighborhood with the goal of improving their standards of living.
Yosef Rivlin, one of the heads of the Jewish community in Jerusalem, and a Christian Arab from Bethlehem were the contractors. The work was carried out by both Jewish and non-Jewish workers.
Mea Shearim was structured as a courtyard neighborhood. It was surrounded by a wall, with gates that were locked every evening. By October 1880, 100 apartments were ready for occupancy, and a lottery was held to assign them to families. By the turn of the century, there were 300 houses, a flour mill, and a bakery. Conrad Schick planned for open green space in each courtyard, but cowsheds were built instead. Mea Shearim was the first quarter in Jerusalem to have street lights.