First generation starting with Kazasker Sarac Mahmut Efendi
Shortly after the Ottomans’ disastrous defeat by Russia in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, my mother’s ancestors migrated from Vidin, a town on the Danube River in the northwestern corner of Bulgaria. They were among the moslemTurkish population of Bulgaria, who had settled here after the territorial gains of the Ottoman empire centuries ago. The earliest family tree branch we know of, goes back to early 1800 to Mahmut Efendi*. Mahmut Efendi had at least three titles pointing out to his profession and education. He was referred to as Ulema- Kazasker- Saraç -Mahmut Efendi. Ulema was a body of scholars recognized for their knowledge of moslem law and theology. Kazasker was the title of a chief military judge and finally Saraç pointed out his craft as a saddler, specializing in leather horse accessories. Mahmut Efendi was married to Ayşe Hanim* who gave birth to four daughters and one son. Their son’s name was Ahmet Efendi. He was a young saddler when he was forced to immigrate to Istanbul with his family and settled in Kocamustafapaşa, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Istanbul by the city walls. Ahmet Efendi, using his craft and knowledge as a saddler soon became pretty wealthy and started serving as Saraçbaşi, the chief saddler to the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II. We believe the year was around 1890ies when he purchased the land and built a midsize wooden mansion in Kocamustafapaşa.
CLICK TO ENLARGE Secon generation starting with Sarac Ahmet Efendi
Sarac Ahmet Efendi with his son Ali Bey and granddaughter Ferhunde from his first wife and children Nudiye and Huseyin from his second wife
The house was one of the first buildings on the street and because of the many immigrants from Bulgaria in the neighborhood, the street was to be called Vidin Caddesi*. The street number was 3 and the front yard was extending to the side for housing of horse stables and a small saddler shop at street number 1. Typical at the time, the Mansion had a Harem part, which the women of the household shared and a Selamlik which was the men’s quarter. In the back of the building there were common usage areas for both sexes, a big kitchen, with a stove with a chimney, a tiny hamam or Turkish bath, and a kiler, a walkin food pantry dug under the ground level . The hamam which had a hot water boiler, heated by burning wood, was used by the women on Sundays during the day and men during the night. The division between women’s and men’s quarters was already discontinued when my mother was two years old in 1923.
The north side of the building which housed the bathrooms on all three floors was covered on the outside face wıth zinc sheets instead of wooden sidings. The backyard had several fig trees, a cage for chicken, a small sheep barn and a vegetable garden. Outside of the building by the kitchen windows there were five water tanks dug into cement used for collecting rainwater. By the back door of the Mansion, opening to the backyard a deck with a pergola with green grapes hanging from the top was built for the recreation of the household .
Photos courtesy of HAAK Group
Mehmet Cem in the back yard by the rain water tanks, circa 1950
The story in this article is about my relatives, of some five generations, who once lived in this mansion. Most of them were born here and lived even after they got married and had children, while some left the house after they got married. Although I did not live in the mansion on a permanent basis, during my childhood and younger years, I stayed in this house for long periods of time. The Koca Mustafa Evi*** as I call it, always stayed as a magical and charming place in my childhood memories. A place where my relatives as a big family once lived. Here is who they were :
Ahmet Efendi of Vidin had two wives. During the Ottoman times and before the foundation of modern Turkish Republic in 1923, according to moslem customs men were allowed to have as many as four wives, as long as they could financially support and take care of them. Usually most wealthy men had two wives, where the second wife was usually younger and helped with the more physical house duties including taking care of the older wife in case she needed medical help. Ahmet Efendi’s first wife was Naciye Hanim who gave birth to two sons named Ruhi Bey and Ali Bey. Ruhi Bey had three daughters named Firdevs, Mualla and Ferhunde. We don’t know if Ruhi Bey lived in the Mansion with his children after he got married. We are guessing from the picture above, apparently Ali Bey who was not married at the time did live in the Mansion. Also my mother had told me that when she was a young girl she remembered that his Grandfather Ahmet Efendi’s old wife who was ill, was living in the third floor of the Mansion, while his second wife Sabriye Hanim was living on the fırst floor.
SARAC AHMET EFENDI
YONGEST SON MAHMUT
My maternal great grandmother Sabriye was Ahmet Efendi’s second wife. I used to call him Haminne ( Great Grandma). Sabriye Hanim and Ahmet Efendi had two sons and one daughter.
The oldest child Nudiye, who was to be my beloved Anneanne or grandmother was born in 1905. She had married Ibrahim Suphi Bey, also an immigrant’s son from the Balkan’s, took the last name Aykut. They had two children: my mother Lamia and my uncle Lemi. Both my mother and my uncle lived in the Mansion until they got married. Lamia married Hamza in 1946 and got the last name Özmeral. They had three sons, myself : Mehmet Cem 1947, Ahmet Cenan 1950 and Mustafa 1962. I lived in the Mansion for several months during my childhood years and later on the weekends when I was in a boarding school away from my parents, who were in Ankara. My brother Cenan was born in the Mansion in one of the second floor rooms.
My Uncle Lemi moved out of the Mansion in 1952 when he got married to my aunt Servet who had lived her childhood in the nearby Samatya neighborhood. They had a son: Ömer and a daughter: Zeynep. Ömer and Zeynep never lived in the Mansion, but were frequent visitors with their parents. My grandmother Nudiye lived in the mansion from the year she was born in 1905 all the way 1950 ies and from 1965 to 1973. She died in a small apartment in the same neighborhood in 1975.
Adults standıng from left : Hüseyin Saraçoğlu, his mother Sabriye, Lemi my uncle (dayım) and Nudiye my grandmother
Adults sitting from left Fevziye (Hüseyin's wife) Servet( Lemi's wife, my aunt)
Chidren on lap and sitting : top Ahmet Cenan (my brother) , bottom Nazan (Hüseyin and Fevziye's s granddaughter) , Myself Mehmet Cem, Ömer Lemiand Servet's son (my cousin)
IN THE BACK YARD,
circa 1966 :
My kid brother Mustafa in the middle with cousins Levent and Zeynep
My Haminne Sabriye Hanim and Great Grandfather Ahmet Efendi’s youngest son Mahmut was born in 1912. He died in 1928 at the young age of 16. Apparently he was playing with a friend of his in the nearby stationary shop his father owned adjourning the mansion, when he was accidently shot by a bullet from his friend's revolver.
Their older son my grandmother's brother and my great uncle Hüseyin Bey lived in the mansion from the year he was born in 1908 until he died in 1966. With the foundation of the new Turkish Republic in 1923 everybody had to abandon the titles in front of their names and had to get a last name instead. We don’t know if Saraç Ahmet Efendi was still living then, but the family living in the Mansion chose the last name Saraçoğlu or Saddlers son. Hüseyin Saraçoğlu married Fevziye Hanim and they had two sons and a daughter. Their oldest son was Bülent who lived in the Mansion until circa 1949 and moved to Yeşilköy neighborhood when she got married to my aunt Nihal. They had one daughter named Nazan who visited her grandfather’s mansion frequently with her parents.
Hüseyin Bey and Fevziye Hanim’s daughter’s name was Berrin. She married Nazim Bey, a wealthy towel and bathrobe fabrics plant owner and got the last name Izgit. Nazim Bey had two Oldmobiles, a rarity in Istanbul at that time, one of them parked in front of the Mansion all the time. They had two daughters Ayşegül and Nilgül. The Izgit family lived on the second floor of the Mansion. Nazim Bey died suddenly at a middle age in the mid 1960 ies. My aunt Berrin lived with her two daughters in the Mansion for several years and moved out to an apartment when her daughters got married. She also died at a relatively young age.
Fevziye Hanim with her children Berrin, Bulent and Benam
Nazim Bey repairing flat tire of the Oldsmobile, mother'nlaw Sabriye Hanim and fatherinlaw Huseyin Bey watching
Big family on the Bosphorus ferry : From Right My father Hamza, mother Lamia, aunt Nihal, I am on my grandpa Suphi's lap, grandma Nudiye and Fevziye Hanim
Saraçoğlu's youngest son, my other uncle Benam, lived all his life in the Mansion. He was born in mid 1920 ies. He lived his adult years as a bachelor on the third floor, which at that time was also used as a guest suite. He married Işil Yenge and they made the third floor of the Mansion their home. They had a son and two daughters together. Their names were Hüseyin Levent, Demet and Buket. All children were raised in the Mansion and when they moved out after they got married, Benam and Işil still lived on the third floor. Since by that time all the parents were long gone the second floor was rented to tenants and the first floor and the garden in the backyard was used for commercial entities. When uncle Benam died in his early 70 ies Işıl Yenge moved out of the mansion. Today she is the oldest living woman who has lived in the mansion and I am the oldest living man, who not only lived in the mansion for some time, but also the oldest person related to the relatives of the Mansion by blood.
About seven years ago the Mansion of Saraç Ahmet Efendi was sold to a foundation, which was supposed to remodel and reconstruct the old building. For some reason, to this day the building is still waiting for the permits from the City Municipality to be granted so the construction can start.
13 Mart 2020
*In old Turkish customs men were addressed for respect as Efendi ( later as Bey) similar to Mr. or Sir in English and women as Hanimefendi or Hanim similar to Lady or Mrs. Also their profession was put in front of their name like a last name or title , in this case Saraç meaning Saddler .
** Vidin Street
Blueprint by HAAK GROUP waiting for the permit last 7 years