Municipality buys historic Istanbul building, vowing to make cultural space
A 113-year-old historic building located on Istanbul’s historical peninsula and that stands out with its distinct architectural structure has been bought by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.
“The seventh hill of Istanbul now belongs to Istanbul residents. We bought Bulgur Palais, which is located on the seventh hill of the historical peninsula and has been abandoned for years, as the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality,” Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu said.
“Now, we will transform this historical building into a cultural space that will be used by all Istanbul residents. Congratulations to our city,” İmamoğlu added.
The price requested for the historical building, which was put up for sale in the past months, was announced as 30 million Turkish Liras ($3.6 million).
Bulgur Palais was built by Mehmet Habib Bey, who was elected as a deputy from the northwestern province of Bolu in 1908 as a candidate of the Committee of Union and Progress (İttihat ve Terraki Fırkası) after the proclamation of the Second Constitutional Monarchy in the last years of the Ottoman Empire.
The Bulgur Palais, a large mansion and garden designed by the Italian Levantine architect Giulio Mongeri dating back to 1912, was one of the first residential building to be realized with a detailed decorative scheme and larger scale associated with public buildings of Istanbul at the time.
Mongeri worked on this splendid brick palace for Mehmet Habib Bey who made a fortune selling bulgur (cracked wheat), hence the name. The building, which is a fantastic example of the First National Architecture Movement, stands out with its imposing huge tower.
After the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey, the ownership of the building passed to the Ottoman Bank in 1926 due to Mehmet Habip’s debts to banks.
Used as the archive building of the Ottoman Bank for a while, the historical building was later transferred to Garanti Bank.
The historical building had been abandoned to its fate for years. Due to the nature of construction in Istanbul over the past 30 years, the architecture of the surrounding areas around the Bulgur Palais degraded to the point where an anonymous built language of an undistinguished character became dominant.
The zoning plan of the 9.5-acre renovation area, which includes the Bulgur Palais and its surroundings within the borders of the historical peninsula, was approved by the votes of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) group in the Istanbul Municipal Assembly last January.
The municipality’s Planning Directorate recalled a controversial urban renewal project in Sulukule neighborhood, saying a similar process had happened in the area surrounding Bulgur Palais as well.
The building is expected to serve as a cultural center after the restoration process.