Cemil Molla Mansion

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Cemil Molla mansion is one of the most fascinating examples of the 19th century Ottoman architecture and still surviving in an untouched wood in the Bosphorus.

The year was 1886, and Üryanizade Cemil Molla Effendi (1865-1941), who served as a Minister of Justice and Head of the Council of State in the last period of the Ottoman Empire, was about giving up his hope of having a mansion built on the hillsides of Kuzguncuk which he believed to be a symbol of a refined taste, sophistication and differentiation according to his dreams when he met Signor Alberti, an Italian origin architect. The combination of the long established customs and the spirit of the Ottomans and the unique technique and the European style of Alberti created this historical piece of art, which is perhaps the most innovative unique and demanding in all aspects.
Cemil Molla, who served as a Head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, Shaikh al-Islam, Head of the State of Council, and two times as Minister of Justice for the Great Ottoman Empire throughout his life, and who was a dearest and close friend and a long time chess friend of Abdul Hamid II and a permanent consultant to Vahideddin (Mehmed VI), was so excited that his dreams for the mansion were coming true. His excitement and enthusiasm caused him to work both as an architect and foreman during the construction of the mansion which lasted five years.
 In those days, the mansion constructed on the hillsides of Kuzguncuk, the pearl of the district had become a very hot topic in İstanbul with its ceilings embellished with gold leaves, dining rooms with private cigar and smoking rooms, and bed rooms’ windows decorated with stained glass which interested almost all the citizens of İstanbul. Its marvelous white marble Turkish bath had been a common subject of gossip, so that there were a lot of people who described it as the “eighth wonder of the world”. Its white marbles were equipped with a thin layer of underfloor heater system to preserve its hotness for all times.
In those days, during the era of Abdul Hamid II, use of electricity and central heating system in any place other than the Yıldız Palace cannot even be dreamed of; however, Molla pioneered a first in the empire, and procured the placement of a generator to his mansion’s ground to have the Cemil Molla Mansion illuminated and heated by generator powered by diesel engine just as the Yıldız Palace. Indeed, at those days, the mansion was the first house in which “electricity” and “central heating system” was used; however Molla hadn’t waited for a long time to introduce a new first which added a new attribute to the known attributes of the mansion: “The first house with a telephone”.
The White Castellated Mansion in Kuzguncuk had also become a distinguished center of culture and entertainment for a long time with its spatial richness. During the night times, conversation meetings with the participation of the most notable philosophers and poets of that period were held, and in these meetings which lasted till the morning, Molla rehearsed verses and poems from Classical Ottoman (Divan) Literature and so crowned the meetings.
At the end of the nineteenth century the empire entered a new era with the coming power of the Committee of Union and Progress which was followed by the landing of Mustafa Kemal at Samsun and Molla secluded himself in the White Castellated Mansion and watched and followed up the events and the developments in the country not as a former high ranked government official or a former minister but as an ordinary citizen. Atatürk expressed his desire to meet with Molla when he came to visit the Beylerbeyi Palace. This approach of Atatürk is a clear indication that Molla was an intellectual who adopted modern life style and who believed that his country is in need of progress, development and innovation. The Molla family had to sell their properties one by one in order to maintain their livings standards just as many other families of the former high ranked officials of the Ottoman Empire and 7 years after the passing away of Cemil Molla in 1941, his family had to sell off the White Castellated Mansion too.
MESA, in 1986 that is one hundred years after its construction, purchased this famous mansion which was the informal artistic center of the Abdülhamid era. During 2004 – 2005, it was meticulously restored to the original design and now looking forward to the future down the hills of the Bosphorus in a more robust manner.