House 770 in Milan, located in the heart of the Art Nouveau style of Porta Venezia, is known among the Milanese as the ‘Dutch house’ because it resembles typical Dutch houses. Its history is fascinating, as it is the only European replica of Brooklyn’s House 770, the headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement of Orthodox Jews that spread this architectural style worldwide.
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House 770: the Brooklyn original and the reason for its replication
Before talking about House 770 in Milan, you need to know what replica it is. The original 770 House is located at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, New York. It houses the World Chabad Center, the global headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement of Orthodox Judaism. The choice of this building was motivated by the presence of a lift when this Jewish community was yet to be so globally significant.
In the 1940s, what we now call House 770 was meant to be the new home of Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchak Schneerson in the United States, fleeing Nazi-occupied Poland. Due to his health problems, Rabbi Schneerson used a wheelchair. The lift installed in the building at 770 Eastern Parkway played a decisive role in the choice of what was to become, in later years, the world headquarters of the movement he founded.
Once a doctor’s office and clandestine abortion clinic, an illegal activity in New York until 1973, the second floor of the building was Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson’s private flat, while the other rooms were study rooms, offices and prayer rooms. After Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson died in 1950, his son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, assumed leadership of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement and grew it into the global movement it is today.
The original building at 770 in Brooklyn underwent multiple extensions, keeping the façade intact and becoming an icon of this Orthodox Jewish movement. Today, the original 770 House is an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, with the men’s section on the ground floor and the women’s section upstairs.
Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters
770 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11213
House 770 in Milan: the only European replica
The Milanese 770 House is a deliberate and non-random replica of the original 770 House in Brooklyn. Designed to faithfully reproduce the original building located at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, the Milanese House is a three-storey building made of red brick with white spires and windows.
The idea of building the Milanese Chabad-Lubavitch community house with the same appearance as the original building at 770 Eastern Parkway came from Rabbi Gershon Mendel Garelik. In the 1960s, at the same Milan address, a Jewish family owned a ruined building, then donated to the community to house a library, offices and a study centre.
The Milan City Council surprisingly agreed to the project to modify the façade of the building in a completely different style to the surrounding buildings. The ‘Dutch house’ thus became one of the many Milanese curiosities to discover during a city trip.
Although recognisable for its unique style, the building looks like an ordinary apartment building from the outside because there is no plaque or indication that it is the headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch community. You can visit the interior only during events organised by the Jewish community.
Casa 770 (House 770)
Via Carlo Poerio, 35
Where to spot the other 770 Houses
Building 770 in Brooklyn attracts thousands of visitors yearly, becoming a symbol of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement among Orthodox Jews. Its image often decorates religious objects such as containers for Mezuzahs, small parallelepipeds containing prayers and placed on door jambs, and Tefillin, liturgical objects of Orthodox Jews. It also inspired the kosher wine label Seven-Seventy, produced by Joseph Zakon wineries in New York.
Architecturally, when the Chabad-Lubavitch movement expands to new locations, it replicates the headquarters building as an identifying element. These replicas, commonly called Houses 770, may vary in their fidelity to the original model. Still, they share a remarkable similarity, so much so that they are affectionately called ‘cloned houses’.
Around the world you can find replicas of the Brooklyn 770 building at the following Chabad centres:
- Chabad House at UCLA in Los Angeles, California
- Chabad House at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey
- Congregation Ahavat Shalom in Ocean City, Maryland
- Camp Gan Israel, near Montreal, Canada
- Beit Chabad Central, São Paulo, Brazil
- St Kilda East, Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
- Dneprodzerzhinsk, Ukraine
- Kfar Chabad, near Tel Aviv, Israel
- Kfar Tapuach, Israel
- Ramat Shlomo, Jerusalem, Israel
- Mitzpe Ramon, Israel
- Kiryat Ata, near Haifa, Israel
- Zikhron Ya’aquov, near Haifa, Israel
Where to stay in Milan
Milan is one of Italy’s largest cities and, for this reason, offers every possible type of accommodation. Park Hyatt Milano is the most luxurious hotel in the heart of the fashion district in Milan. It’s near the Cathedral and La Scala Theatre, making it an excellent tourist location. For cheaper yet elegant accommodation, try Aparthotel Meneghino, within walking distance of Milan Cathedral and the Milan Fashion District. B&B Le Dimore Suites Milano is also a great option with a terrace and views of the inner courtyard.
Let me know in the comments if you already know the story of Houses 770 and if you have seen the Milan building or another Chabad centre inspired by the original New York house.