The Grand Bazaar Is Burning

The Grand Bazaar is a sealed boxed”, this phrase by Orhan Veli is a poetic expressian and yet is a true statement in terms of the Bazaar’s history. The number of works on the Grand Bazaar, which is the center of İstanbul’s trading life, a place where the culture and business combine, where high works of arts are being produced, bought and solcl, is just a few. It is not possible to find any works in Turkish other than the ones of Çelik Gülersoy, Efdalettin Tekiner, Orhan Erdenen and a few others that explains mostly Bazaar’s business life. However, it is possible to write volumes of books about the different branches of professions(crafts) which the Bazaar inholds and are partially extinct. Researches must be done about the social life, commercial activity, cultural change of the Bazaar.

Here is an example of one of the faces of this sealed box, the Grand Bazaar: the history of the Grand Bazaar fires. The Grand Bazaar is a place that suffered from many small and big fire incidents that happened in İstanbul. But, there is rarely a source of any information on this subject and this information is disorganized. While I was collecting this information, I wanted share with you the documents on a big fire incident that happened in the Grand Bazaar not very long ago. I am presenting you two first hand docu- ments about the big fire on November 1954 with no changes. One of them is the report of Fire Marshall’ s Deputy who is one of the firsts who stepped into the fire, the other one is Fahrettin Kerim Gökay’s, the mayor of İstanbul, speech that he made during the opening of barracks that were built temporarily after the fire in the courtyard of Nuruosmaniye mosque. The fire that happened on November 26th of 1954 in the Grand Bazaar On the date of 11/26/1954, at 22:53 Kumkapı Commissar Deputy called by the phone numbered 26434, informed that the fire started at the basement of the Church across from Gedikpaşa Turkish Bath and asked for a fire truck. Immediately a truck was sent under Team Chief Deputy from İstanbul Team, Yakup Karaoğlu, and just when a turn was about to bemade to Gedikpaşa from the front of Çarşıkapı police station, after being told by the police and people that the fire is actually was in the Bazaar, it changed its direction to the Bazaar. When it arrived to the gate of the Bazaar, the nightguards opened the gate and the Bazaar was buming on fire.

The central office was notified immidearely of this situation and addirional help was asked. At that time Beyazıt ve Galata towers had also seen the fire and informed the team. At 22.56 seven more trucks and four arnbulant motor-pumps was sent and when they arrived to the scene at 23.00, it was seen that the shops towards Kalpakçılar Avenue and Örücüler were burning. The strong fires that was coming towards the gates made it impossible to get into the Bazaar. At 23:01, despite the fact that the water in the water tanks was used on the fire, the fire substantially spreaded through the Bazaar and Hüseyinağa Mahallesi Mosque Street. The fire even reached to the outside of the Bazaar. Upon these facts, at 23:07 the central office was called with radiotelephone and addirional help was wanted. The second team from İstanbul Team arrived at 23:14; the first team from Beyoğlu team arrived at 23:16; Bakırköy team arrived at 23:24; the second  group from Beyoğlu team arrived at 23:37 and the fire trucks of Üsküdar and Kadıköy Teams arrived at the fire scene at 1:12 am. With the participation of the teams which arrived after the first arrival to the scene and the first watering at 23:01, the water was taken from Beyazıt pool, the water tank in Nuruosmaniye Mosque, Süleymaniye pool, water tank in Ticaret Inn, water tank in Kızılay Inn, the fire hydrants, which are located in the front of Çarşıkapı police station and Çadırcılar, in Hakkaklar Market, Makasçılar Avenue and in front of the gas station at Yeniçeriler Avenue. The water was also taken from other fire hydrants !ike the 100mm one in Fuatpaşa Avenue, 60mm one by Çakmakçılar Hill ve Tavukpazarı, llOmm ones in Vezirhan Avenue and Kürkçüler Avenue, 60mm one in Hüseyinağa Mosque street and the ones in Grand Bazaar Kuyumcular Street and the water was tried to be given with a l10se from Yorgancılar, which was opened by the people in order to save their belongings, Bitpazarı and Örücüler gates, which were opened by the firemen. By continuing to work at this pace, the spread of the fire was prevented at 1:00am in November 27th 1954 and the fire was taken under control. At 6:00am the fire was under control, and at 12:00 the fire was completely put out.

It is determined that the cause of fire was a short circuit in an electric circuit which put the cotton and the comforters on fire in Davud’s comforter store numbered 68 by Koltuk Kazazlar Street. The factors that caused the spread of this fire can be listed as the following:

The fact that in the nearby stores to the one in which the fire started, the flammable and combustable goods that were hung close to the electric wires served almost as matches and the fact that the display windows were made out of plywood, card board and oilpaint. As a result of counterflow of the wind in the air current and through the street alleys by flowing through broken windows and especially previously opened doors, the fire licked the streets !ike a toung paraHel to the floor and inflamed the stores and display goods in an orderly manner. The fact that there were gunpowder shops and cologne shops which carried flammable goods. The fact that there were easily flammable goods !ike grass, hay, cotton, varnish and ete. in bulks in the furniture stores. The fact that there were copiously stores that sold and displayed pudding, milk, meat balls and other food products. The fact that there were animals !ike cats, mice and other reptiles that came into the Bazaar and nested there in time. These animals most likely caught on fire and played a big role on spreading the fire by nınning through the holes or any openings they saw. Conclusion: Even though one thousand two hundred shops were estimated after the fire was put out, One thousand three hundred and sixty four shops were determined at the end of the examination of the tax department. Seventy four of these shops burned down completely while one thousand two hundred and ninety got burned partially. There were also thirty shops outside the Bazaar that burned down.

This fire caused an estimated 15000,00 liras worth of damage and 7,034,168 of this cost was paid by the insurance company. These numbers are enough to deseribe the severity of this disaster. For their high performance during this disaster a wrist watch was given to Fire Marshall Tevfik Himalaya, Fire Marshall Deputy Tarık Özavcı, Chief of İstanbul District Team İsmail Koca, Chief of Beyoğlu District Team Cemal Oral, Ali Demirel, employee 493, from the İstanbul Team, Cafer Aydın empoyee  44 and Zeynel Öztürk empolyeel 97 by the government.

Other than this, with the decision 1676/3270 that was made on February 23rd  1955 by the permanent committee, gifts were given to Fire Marshall Tevfik Himalaya and Fire Marshall Deputy Tarık Özavcı and to others who served during this fire according to their ranks. To the Provincial Office by İstanbul Jewelers Guild on February 28th 1955: 1- One silver cigar box to Fire Marshall Tevfik Himalaya, 2- One silver cigar box to Fire Marshall Deputy Tarık Özavcı’ya on behalf of Cevahir Bedestan jewelers, 3- One silver mug to İstanbul Centeral Fire Team, 4- One silver mug to Beyoğlu District Fire Team, 5- One silver mug to Üsküdar District Fire Team, 6- One silver mug to Kadıköy District Fire Team, 7- One silver mug was given to Bakırköy District Fire Team. The value of these gifts are sentimental, not materialistic. Our humble fire department feels joy when it puts out a fire with minimum damage and considers this success as the most precious gift.” The government and local authorities nın immediately for the help of those who suffered from the fire. After one month, just before the new year, seventy temporaıy baracks were openecl for service by the Mayor of İstanbul Fahrettin Kerim Gökay in the courtyard of Nuruosmaniye Mosque. Gökay told the fallawing in his opening speech: “My fellow citizens,

With their unique high patience anel energy, Turkish people tıy to eliminare this big sorrow that we are going through by their immeeliate supports. From the first moment, our respected President, Vice-President, representatives and all of the employees on duty of the county anel the city have been with you. In the histoıy of Turkish nation, sorrows always came along with national solidarity. Your big sorrow affectecl not only our countıy but the whole world. However, before the end of the first month, our compassionate government gives one-seventh of the victims their jobs back. I said one-seventh because when we count these five hunclred shops that got destroyed, we see that some stores have two separate shops in them. That means that close to seven hundred anel fifty citizens lost their jobs and shops. However, the employees who worked for these job owners are anather total of number. Taelay these temporary barracks, but tomorrow your bumeel Bazaar, will soon be handed to you properly with full protection of your material and moral rights. The work has staıted. In addition, very soon we will be handing to you the temporary barracks, which will be built in the courtyard of Şehzade and Mercan. The loss in these painful days in the history of Turkish nation has ended. Turkish people, holding their heads high, are moving towards a new bright path. While standing in the last days of this old year and on the doorsteps of the new one, I wish that this temporary Bazaar, which we built in the courtyard of bright sanctuary of N uruosmaniye for the first time, will make all of you happy. I also ask Almighty God not to bring any other sorrows to our people. I wish bright new days for us and greet all of you with love.

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