The narrow road (Soğukçeşme) between Aya Sofia and Topkapi Palace is like an exhibition of Ottoman period Istanbul. It is assumed that the front of the palace walls were left empty for a century or two after the columns were built in the Fatih period. However, the deed records show clearly that in a very short time, a series of nine lean-to wooden houses were erected against the wall. Some of the owners of these houses were employees of the Palace and Aya Sofia, but not all of them. Historical research has proved, not only that some mansion owners on the Bosphorus used to live there during winter, but also that the first structure to be built next to the Palace door was a dervish lodge (tekke) belonging to a prominent family.
The ownership of these buildings remained in the same families until the 1950’s. As the city grew more and more crowded, this street was also effected and most of the nine houses were either evacuated and collapsed or replaced by hideous concrete buildings.
In 1984, The Touring Club, acting upon the positive effects of their revitalization of the nearby “Green House”, dutifully took on the responsibility of saving this street. In 1986, the street with its appealing buildings reconstructed in compulsory perfect harmony, as though touched by a magic wand, opened its doors to tourism. The street, which is surrounded by magnolias, honeysuckles and jasmines is, sadly, the only road in Istanbul not to be blemished by a single modern building (or apartment)! It is closed to traffic.
The decoration of these houses was undertaken in the 19th century style. It was the time when Istanbul was under Western influence (meaning the furniture included such items as beds and consoles). It is classic 1800’s decoration with silk curtains, velvet armchairs and gilded mirrors.
This fabulous district crowned its success and established the need for such a place, once and for all, when it received a Royal visit: In the spring of 2000, H.M Sofia, the Queen of Spain stayed there for four nights with two of her relatives. This visit will be remembered as a great honour for all time.