Greek Orthodox Orphanage (Prinkipo Greek Orthodox orphanage) Europe's largest wooden building, awaits salvation off Istanbul


ISTANBUL - Agence France-Presse - May 28, 2018

Looking up at the giant wooden edifice looming over him, Erol Baytaş shakes his head. “I don’t think it will survive another winter,” he says, broken tiles and boards strewn at his feet.

Built at the end of the 19th century on an island off Istanbul, this unique six-storey structure once served as a home for Greek Orthodox orphans until it was shut down in the early 1960s.

And more than five decades later, the now dilapidated Prinkipo Greek Orthodox orphanage is at risk of collapse......

Situated atop a hill on Büyükada, one of the Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara, it is about 90 minutes by ferry from central Istanbul.

Originally conceived as a luxury casino hotel, the building was commissioned by the Compagnie des Wagons-Lits, the travel firm which historically operated the Orient Express.

The aim was to attract well-heeled European travellers who were flocking to Istanbul in great numbers at the height of the Belle Epoque, many arriving on the famous long-distance train.

Designed by Alexandre Vallaury, the Franco-Ottoman architect behind Istanbul’s Pera Palace hotel, the hotel was completed in 1898 -- but never managed to get an operating license from Sultan Abdulhamid II on grounds its gambling activities would be immoral.

With its grand plans floored, the timber-framed structure was sold to the wife of a rich banker from the city’s Greek minority who gave it to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

And in 1903, the patriarchate turned it into an orphanage, which took care of nearly 5,800 Greek Orthodox orphans until its closure in 1964........