The house called Maktab Anbar is located in the center of Old Damascus near the Umayyad Mosque and a short distance from the well known historic and commercial avenue known as Straight Street. It is the largest house within the walls of the Old City and was built in the mid 19th century. The design and construction of this private residence were begun by Mr. Anbar. The main sections were completed at tremendous expense, and due to high costs Mr. Anbar abandoned the project In 1887. The Ottomans, who then occupied Syria, completed the project adding two wings and converting the house into a boys' school. After the Ottomans retreated from Syria in the early 20th century, the government used the building as a girls' school, later abandoning it
The unoccupied building was badly damaged and on the verge of total collapse, when in 1976, the Culture Ministry purchased the house and directed its restoration and renovation. Originally, the Ministry intended merely to restore the house. After undertaking the restoration, it decided to convert the house into a cultural center to include a museum, exhibition hall, and library. The original house, built over a 30-year period contains elaborate interior and exterior decorations.
The 3825 square meter house contains three original sections and a later, fourth section. Each section is built around a central courtyard; however, the house plan is dominated by the large, central, formal courtyard around which the men's reception rooms and iwans are located. Most of this area rises to a two-story height. Behind this section, a women's area surrounds an informal courtyard. The rear of the house contains three small servants' rooms arranged around a small court with a rear entrance.
Two wings were early additions and surround an entry courtyard that provides access both to the road and to the main men's area. One of the wings rises to a two-story height. Each of the three larger courtyards contains a fountain the importance of the central men's court is emphasized by an elaborate fountain and landscaped garden
The intention of the restoration program was originally to restore the 19th century residence as authentically as possible. The elaborate main house begun by Mr. Anbar was restored based on research and historical data. The renovation of the later two wings, however, was not carried out according to historical documents. After restoration had begun, the programme was changed to one of adaptive re-use The original space was re-organized to house a library exhibition hall, museum and craft workshops.