Monday, August 29, 2011

Büyükada Orphanage

image via
This past summer, I was swarmed by shiny new ideas, distracting me like fireflies. I suppose that's a good thing. I've got a couple of really decent ones that I'm planning to sit down and write a synopsis for in the not too distant future. Here's one location that's hovering around in my head, because setting is always my initial inspiration: Büyükada Orphanage, perched on the second highest point of the island.

Known to locals as the Red Palace, the orphanage was originally built by a French company as the Prinkipo Palas hotel. The luxury property was well equipped with a theater, dining hall, library, chapel, and (the Achilles heel) a game room for a planned casino on par with Monte Carlo. The hotel never opened because gambling is forbidden under Islamic law.

How on earth did someone think they could build a casino in the clearly Islamic Ottoman empire? There was a golden age of European investment in Turkey around the fin de siècle, amazing hotels included, but there seems to have been a change in local leadership by the time the hotel was being completed. Everybody's plans ran amok.

From what I can translate:

The Greek Orthodox community gathered funds, facilitated with a large grant and initiative by a banker's widow, purchased and then gifted the building to the Phanar Greek Orthodox Patriarchate for use as an orphanage. By 1964, the dwindling Greek orthodox population had no need for a 206 room structure. (Claimed to be the largest wooden structure in Europe - I read 85,000 sq. ft/26,000 sq. m) The site has been closed ever since.

The Turkish government reinstated the deed to the Patriarchate last November. Hopefully, this means someone will pick up a paint brush and save this amazing piece of architecture. Wouldn't it be nice if it were a grand hotel once more?

Image: Realleo via

This is what the view should resemble, though this was taken down the hill a bit.

Image: Mert 16 via

Google maps has a brilliant bird's eye perspective on this, with all sorts of zoomable pics. Anyone know how to embed that kind of stuff?

Büyükada Orphanage in Istanbul to be Transferred to Greek Patriarchate - Hurriyet Daily News


Old Kitty said...

Gosh this building has such a history! From a posh casino/hotel to a Greek orphanage, to a derelict neglected structure back to the Greeks. Wow. It looks stunning even in such a state! I kind of think given the Greek economy that doing this place up may be a tad unrealistic but it seems a shame to let it go to waste.

Take care

Natalie said...

Yikes, if anyplace looks ripe for a creepy ghost story........shiver

Carolyn V said...

Wow! It's huge! I hope they will restore it too. But I agree with Natalie, it's kind of spooky as it is.

Matthew MacNish said...

Whoa. That building is awesome. It looks like it's built out of matchsticks.

Hart Johnson said...

I can totally see how that would inspire your imagination! Interesting history, too! I hope they do restore it.

KatOwens: Insect Collector said...

What am amazing building. You MUST set something there at some point. it was made for fiction! said...

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