Landmark Istanbul hotel threatened by stall on restoration
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 12/27/2010 12:00:00 AM | VERCİHAN ZİFLİOĞLU
The Tokatlıyan Pera Hotel, an Istanbul landmark on İstiklal Avenue, is in urgent need of repair but the building’s owners, the Beyoğlu Üç Horan Armenian Church Foundation, have reportedly refused to permit any refurbishment. ‘The Tokatlıyan is the history of Istanbul. Destroying this building means betraying history,’ says an architectural history expert
One of Istanbul’s grandest old hotels, the Tokatlıyan Pera Hotel, requires urgent restoration if the historical structure is to be preserved for the future, according to a number of architectural experts.
“It is murder not to restore this building,” Efrim Bağ, a businessman and prominent member of Turkey’s Armenian community, recently told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
The Tokatlıyan Pera on Istanbul’s İstiklal Avenue is the last remaining property of a former Armenian-owned hotel chain in the city. The hotel, which has hosted Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Leon Trotsky and countless other prominent national and international figures since it was constructed in 1897, is now in a state of severe disrepair. Although many projects have been submitted for its restoration, its owner, the Beyoğlu Üç Horan Armenian Church Foundation, has reportedly failed to grant permission to any refurbishment plan.
Currently, the building’s lower floors are used as a hotel, while other rooms now house shops. Many of the upper floors, which replaced the structure’s once-magnificent dome, are now off-limits as even walking can be dangerous.
“[The Tokatlıyan] belongs to the community, not to a person. It is unbelievable that such a structure, which might provide millions of Turkish Liras for the community, is abandoned to its fate even as the state gives permission for its restoration,” said Harutyan Şanlı, another community member.
The Üç Horan foundation, which owns dozens of valuable properties around Beyoğlu, did not respond to the Daily News’ questions about the claims.
An executive from another Armenian community foundation speaking on condition of anonymity, said the problem stemmed from Üç Horan’s fear of losing its current power and wealth.
“The management of the Üç Horan foundation wants to hold onto its power. They have been managing the foundation for 30 years without holding an election. They don’t provide information about their work, the proposals they receive and the income they bring into their society,” he said.
The executive said part of the reason the foundation’s management has resisted approving any refurbishment plan is because it already receives substantial income from the offices that presently pay rent for use of the structure’s lower floors.
[HH] ‘Betraying history’
The building is not simply a hotel, but an important part of Istanbul’s history, architectural history expert Professor Afife Batur recently told the Daily News.
“Destroying this building means betraying history,” she said, urging that the edifice be protected immediately.
“It is very important that the building serve as a hotel again in order to maintain its historical function,” she said.
Noting the recent fire that destroyed the roof of Kadıköy’s historical Haydarpaşa Train Station, Batur said: “We can’t protect our history and values we have. We are not aware of the fact that we lose ourselves along with our history. What is this selfishness [in not restoring this building]?”
“I don’t know about the disagreement [with Turkey’s Armenian community], but it should be considered that history is about to die,” restoration expert and architect Fatma Sedes told the Daily News.
[HH] Sensitive restoration crucial
Any restoration should be undertaken with extreme care so as to avoid damaging the historical structure, Sedes said.
“The Tokatlıyan Pera, which is one of the structures that best reflects the history of Istanbul, should undergo a very sensitive restoration process; its original structure should not be touched. The project is very important because history has been destroyed in Istanbul in the name of restoration,” she said.
Architect Melih Güneş said the hotel should be taken under protection as soon as possible, adding that the edifice was a treasure. “It should be restored like its original. The additional floors should be removed and it should be reopened as a hotel.”
Sedes said the Tokatlıyan Pera used to be Istanbul’s second largest hotel, trailing only the legendary Pera Palas in Tepebaşı.
“There were 160 rooms in the [Tokatlıyan Pera]. It was one of the most striking structures in Beyoğlu in terms of its architectural features. Its furnishings were brought from Europe. It is painful to see that such a significant building has been abandoned to its fate,” Sedes said.
A second branch of the hotel, the Tokatlıyan Therapia, used to stand in the present location of the Büyük Tarabya Hotel overlooking the Bosphorus in Sarıyer, but it was destroyed by fire at the turn of the 20th century. The Therapia was built by Armenian businessman Mıgırdiç Tokatlıyan in 1897.