Istanbul’s landmark club reopens as a hotel
Bahadır Gültekin - ISTANBUL
A historic venue that once dominated Istanbul's nightlife, playing a major role in the evolution of Turkish popular entertainment culture, has reopened its doors as a five-star hotel.
The French luxury hotel chain Sofitel, which runs more than 120 hotels around the world, has partnered with Turkish contractor Tuna İnşaat for replacing the Grand Maksim Gazino, a concert venue and dining place that hosted numbers of Turkish stars.
The new facility is constructed on both the former “gazino” and Majik Cinema. Designed by renowned Italian architect Guilio Mongeri and built in 1914, Majik was the first building that was designed for the purpose of cinema theater in the city.
The remains of these two buildings form the façade of Sofitel Istanbul that oversees the Taksim Square.
With a total investment of $100 million, the hotel aims to bring French-style luxury hospitality to Istanbul's most popular spot.
It was planned in 2004 that these two buildings would become a hotel complex. However, the public reaction and consecutive court decisions halted the start of the work several times.
Club Grand Maksim itself has a knotty story.
The venue founded by the Afro-American Frederick Thomas, who escaped from the slavery in the United States and settled first in Tsarist Russia and then in Istanbul after the Bolshevik Revolution.
Thomas opened the first entertainment venue in Istanbul under the name of Stella in Şişli district.
It quickly became a music and dance center of Istanbul, hosting best jazz orchestras and popular dance shows of foxtrot, shimmy, and black bottom.
A few years later, when the venue moved to its new place in Taksim Square, it presented Turkey’s modernization efforts to the new Istanbul society as part of the westernization wave of the time.
The fate of Grand Maksim, which remained silent for decades after Thomas's death, changed with the purchase of the place by Fahrettin Aslan, who would later become the King of the Clubs.
Aslan recreated Grand Maksim with a new decoration, shows, lighting and sound systems, introducing a fresh sense of entertainment.
The venue shaped the Turkish entertainment life from its opening in 1961 until its closure in 2004, inventing a “music hall culture” regardless of class difference.
At the end of the 15-year process the construction was completed and the building began to serve as a luxury hotel, starting from today.