Articles Tagged with: Lower Mahalle

“Upper Mahalle” and “Lower Mahalle”: Topographical Harmony

As a settlement the mahalle was, so to speak, living in harmony with its general topographical setting. Samatya Caddesi (Samatya Avenue, alias “Buchers’ Road”), running in a more or less east-west direction parallel to the sea and itself at approximately sea level, was in many ways the “high street”
of Kasap ƒlyas (Fig 3.1). Almost all of the shops and all of the public buildings (the mosque, the public bath, the police station, the bakery, one of the two dervish lodges, the main public fountain, and two coffeehouses), as well as the largest konaks, were all lined on this street.
Through our “main street” also passed, at that time, one of the newly established horse-drawn tramway lines. This was the Aksaray-Yedikule line, one of the first horse-drawn tramway lines in Istanbul, put in operation in the early 1870s. The electrification of the Istanbul tramway lines was to come only after the turn of the century. Samatya Street had also been newly paved for the occasion and the rails went now between regular pavement-stones, not on the dirt that was trodden by the butchers carrying meat to the Janissaries in previous centuries. The Kasap ƒlyas “main street” was not wide enough, though, and, before the tramway line could be inaugurated, a number of shops and houses had to be torn down to allow for the simultaneous passage of two streetcars.
The first precise and published measurements of street length and width in and around Kasap ƒlyas were done by a German land-surveying company just before the First World War. These measurements clearly show that, even after the passage of the tramway line, our newly paved “main street” was neither rectilinear nor uniformly wide. The width of Samatya Caddesi varied between a minimum of 8.4 meters and a maximum of 10.8 meters, sidewalks included, over the portion that passed through the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle. Over some portions there was still, forty years after the tram line was opened, only one set of tramway rails, and two streetcars could not pass abreast. The width of the other important streets of the mahalle (e.g., Çavuœzâde or Yokuœçeœme) nowhere exceeded four or four and a half meters, the measurements being always taken from house to house. Over part of their course these streets were
even narrower. The bay windows of the houses situated on the two sides were almost touching each other. There were even much thinner passageways in the neighborhood, such as the one leading to the Ispanakçı Viranesi and the whole web of small streets situated between Samatya Caddesi and the sea.31
One consequence of the operation of the new tramway line that connected the mahalle to one of the central districts of the city had, obviously, been a change in the transportation patterns of the local inhabitants of Kasap ƒlyas.
The Davudpaœa wharf totally lost any function it may have had in local urban passenger transportation.
South of Samatya Street, along the old city ramparts, also passed the railway line that connected Istanbul to Vienna, Paris, London, and other European cities through Edirne, Sofia, and Belgrade. That was the line that brought the “Orient Express” to Istanbul. The railway line had been officially opened in 1874. On the same line also operated local urban/suburban trains that went from the Sirkeci train station in the city center to the distant suburb of Küçükçekmece.32 The nearest two stops were those of Yenikapı and Samatya, both about half a kilometer away along the shore, respectively to the east and to the west of Kasap ƒlyas. The local inhabitants preferred to use the tramway line, however, which was cheaper and much more convenient for those who worked in the city center.
Sloping gently in a roughly north-south course toward this main commercial street, two other long streets, Çavuœzâde and Yokuœçeœme (with its narrow passageway leading to the cul-de-sac of Ispanakçı Viranesi), delineated the main residential areas of Kasap ƒlyas. These two streets, as well as
those situated south of Samatya Caddesi toward the sea, contained no shops at all. In 1885, more than two thirds of the residents were living either on Samatya Street or in the streets situated to the north of it. Twenty years later, the situation had not changed, as only 24 percent of the residents lived south
of the main street in 1907. To the south of the main street was the relatively sparsely populated area that also contained all of the warehouses.
Most of the Kasap ƒlyas people had to therefore “go down” to Samatya Street for all sorts of everyday activities: to buy a loaf of bread, to do some daily shopping, to pray, to have a hot bath, to get a bucketful of drinking water, to sit idly at a coffeehouse, or to use public transportation to go to
another part of the city. There had developed, so it seems, in the mahalle, a quite clear functional differentiation between the purely residential areas and the central/shopping area. The residential area consisted of the streets and alleys situated to the north of the central shopping area, and these streets had no shops. On or very near Samatya Street were also located all of the four konaks that belonged to the wealthier of the residents. By opposition, less than one fifth of the neighborhood population lived in the three narrow and winding streets (named Helvacı, Horasancı, and Davutpaœa Iskelesi) that
went from this central area toward the wharf and the sea.
It appears that these three streets south of the main street and that also contained the warehouses for wood, coal, and other bulk goods were, just as the Ispanakçı Viranesi further up north, another relatively poor residential section of the mahalle. “The neighborhood never contained more than a
thousand inhabitants….The more well-to-do lived on Çavuœzâde street, and the poorest in Yokuœçeœme street and in the Ispanakçı Viranesi….There were absolutely no immigrants among the inhabitants of Çavuœzâde street.”
This is a twentieth-century representation of the situation, which prevailed half a century before that, expressed by a native of Çavuœzâde Street.33 Indeed, not a single native of Arapkir lived on that street in 1907.
The 1885 census documents contain no detailed information on the precise composition of the central shopping area of the neighborhood. The notebooks of Osman Efendi, however, fill up some of the lacunae and give particulars as to some of the shops on Samatya Street.34 There were two barbershops, a butcher, a locksmith (and tinner at the same time), two groceries, a seller of boza, a herbalist (aktar), a maker and seller of sweet pudding (muhallebici), and another of sweets (helva). Of the two bakeries, both located on the main street, one was for bread and the other for sweet pastry. The large public bath, with a tepidarium/caldarium couple for men’s use and another for women, was one of the oldest and best known of Istanbul.
These shops, together with the nearby vegetable gardens, were quite sufficient to meet the daily needs of the inhabitants. There were, however, no sellers of cloth, shoes, dresses, garments, or related items, nor of any other kind of durable consumer goods within the neighborhood. Kasap ƒlyas contained no other specialized craftsman or shop, either. People had to buy provisions in nearby markets. The two nearest marketplaces were situated in Aksaray and in Avratpazarı, the first about a kilometer away to the east and the second not too far away, in the neighboring northern district of Cerrahpaœa.
There was no primary school for boys within the mahalle either. Schoolboys had to climb uphill in order to reach the primary school known as Ahmet Paœa taœmektebi, situated in the upper portion of Yokuœçeœme Street, then part of the northern Hûbyâr neighborhood. This school, which operated on a
modern mode, was much more important than the small primary school for girls on lower Yokuœçeœme Street. Forty-five male and thirty-one female
pupils were enrolled in that primary school in 1894.35
The number of shops in the mahalle was barely equal to that of the warehouses for wood and coal (see table 4.7). The 1885 census listing of occupations (see table 3.2) shows that the number of artisans and shopkeepers who resided in Kasap ƒlyas (137) was much larger than the total number of shops (24) that the neighborhood itself contained. Besides, the precise occupations of these artisans and shopkeepers who resided in Kasap ƒlyas did not correspond at all to the types of shops and trades that existed in the
neighborhood. For instance, the owner or manager of what was certainly one of the largest commercial enterprises in the neighborhood, the public bath, does not appear in any of the listings of the inhabitants of Kasap ƒlyas.
Neither do any of those who worked in the same hamam. Osman efendi, the muhtar of Kasap ƒlyas, is another case in point. He was a haberdasher (astarcı) by profession but there was no haberdasher’s shop within the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle. Clearly, he had to spend the day away from his neighborhood. There were bakeries and groceries in Kasap ƒlyas but no resident professional bakers or grocers. There were twenty-four warehouses (ma™azas) in Kasap ƒlyas in 1885, but their owners or managers are nowhere to be seen in the census listings. By contrast, a cobbler/shoemaker lived in our mahalle but his shop was situated elsewhere.
As a matter-of-fact, almost the whole group of artisans and shopkeepers living in Kasap ƒlyas practiced their profession elsewhere, and the shops and trades in Kasap ƒlyas were owned or run by people residing in some other neighborhood. Obviously, then, there must have been a considerable number
of people, both adults and children, permanently on the move and who commuted, so to speak, daily to and from the mahalle. Most of the Kasap ƒlyas inhabitants probably walked to work and to school, as their habit had been for long centuries, but some of them must have used the new means of
public transportation, the tramway.

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