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The Bostans

There were also many larger vegetable gardens (bostans) in sixteenth-century Kasap ƒlyas. One of these vegetable gardens, situated right in front of the Davudpaœa gate, was given as an endowment to a local pious foundation by one Kethüda Sinan in February 1515.36 The planting of trees, and the sowing and reaping of fruits, vegetables, and flowers was an important activity in sixteenth-century Kasap ƒlyas. With the extensions of the large and neighboring Langa vegetable gardens penetrating right into our mahalle, and given that many of the gardens attached to the Kasap ƒlyas houses were also probably used as orchards and vegetable gardens, the area had an agricultural character, an almost semirural atmosphere. In many cases, the resident household units living enclosed in a more or less self-sufficient dwelling coincided with an agricultural unit of production. Many of the houses that had been donated to a local foundation in the early sixteenth-century Kasap ƒlyas mahalle had a water-well that went with it. These wells were used for watering the vegetable gardens and orchards rather than for drinking. Some of the wells also had, perhaps, a water wheel drawn by a horse, also used for ploughing, and put in adjoining stables, donated with the house.
As communications were slow and relatively scarce, most of the fresh fruit and vegetables consumed within the city of Istanbul came, until well into the twentieth century, from the many local vegetable gardens and orchards. These bostans were located either within the quite sparsely populated walled city itself, or in its immediate surroundings. One of the largest vegetable gardens within the walled city was indeed that of Langa, immediately to the east of Kasap ƒlyas. These large Langa gardens extended right into our neighborhood. Most of the fruit and vegetable sellers in Istanbul were of the
itinerant type and they carried and marketed the fresh fruit and vegetables to the areas of Istanbul where there were no nearby bostans.
Just as the wharf, the presence of these vegetable gardens—which gave our “peripheral” neighborhood a quasirural appearance—also put their stamp on the social and occupational structure of our neighborhood. This was so in the nineteenth century as well as in the sixteenth. Many fruit and vegetable street vendors lived in the vicinity of the large Langa and Davudpaœa vegetable gardens, which were a permanent source of provisioning for their retail trade. As we shall see, this group of street vendors came to be the backbone of the nonwage-earning population of Kasap ƒlyas in the late nineteenth century.
Besides the mosque, the hamam, and a few shops clustered around the mosque, what other public amenities did our neighborhood contain in the sixteenth century? Was there a bakery, for instance? We do not know for certain. Some of the houses donated in the sixteenth century had an oven or
kiln (furun). If the baking could have been done at home, what about the wheat and the flour? There were some windmills in Istanbul in the sixteenth century and some of these were situated on the nearby windy hills overlooking the sea of Marmara. We also know that in the late eighteenth century
there was a privately owned mill within our neighborhood and that this mill was donated to a foundation.37 This is not sufficient evidence, however, to deduce that the locals used to systematically take their wheat to the mill and then to bake their bread at home.
As for other public amenities, we know that there was at least one public fountain for drinking water in the neighborhood in the first half of the sixteenth century. Drinking water had been brought to the neighborhood through the so-called Kırkçeœme (forty-fountain) water conduit system that was part of Soliman the Magnificent’s foundation that provided waterways for Istanbul. That fountain was situated right in the middle of the mahalle, where the mosque, public bath, and shops were situated.38 There was also another public fountain midway up the hill on the road that climbed from the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle toward the Davudpaœa mosque. It was probabaly connected to the same large system of water conduits. This second public fountain somehow disappeared in later centuries but nevertheless left a durable imprint on the mahalle, for the name of this fountain (Yokuœçeœme, i.e., “sloping fountain” or “fountain on the slope”) was given to the same street. The street still bears the same name.

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