The Greek Orphanage is a marvelous building that has been used for different purposes over time and is considered the largest wooden building in the world.
The Greek Orphanage is a must-see building when you visit Büyükada. It impresses with its history and majesty. Located on Jesus Hill, one of the two hills of the island, the Greek Orphanage is a 5-story building with 206 rooms. It is located 700 meters away from the Union Square, which is the resting point for horses and the beginning of the exit point to Aya Yorgi Church.
When you enter in the direction of the Greek Orphanage, after 350 meters you come to a turnoff. The left side is Lovers’ Road Street. To reach the Greek Orphanage, you need to take the road on the right, not the Lovers’ Lane. After 350 meters from this junction, you can see the wooden walls of the Greek Orphanage.
This terrifying structure, which looks like it is about to collapse, is also exciting. There is no entrance way to photograph the 115×45 meter structure up close. The building, which has not been maintained for years and is rotten everywhere, is closed due to the danger of collapse. In the guard shack next to the entrance, a guard probably keeps order in the area. The surrounding area is protected by high railings.
All kinds of farm animals graze inside. The Greek Orphanage, which I thought was more exciting at night, was enough to speed up one’s heart palpitations even during the day. There is another wooden structure in the garden, independent from the main building. It is the infirmary building built for Greek children.
The building was first built in 1899 by the French as a hotel called Prinkipo Palas for 50,000 gold coins. Built by Alexandre Vallaury, an Istanbul-born Frenchman who was also the architect of great buildings such as Pera Palas, Ottoman Bank, Mimar Sinan Faculty of Fine Arts and Istanbul Archeology Museum, the building could not be operated due to the lack of permission from the sultan and was purchased for 3,500 gold by Eleni Zarifi, the wife of one of the biggest bankers of the Ottoman Empire, Banker Zarifi.
Eleni Zarifi, whose aim was to establish an orphanage, converted the building used as a hotel into an orphanage at a cost of 1000 gold coins. She also had a fire escape built in addition to the wooden structure. The orphanage, whose previous location was the Balıklı Greek Hospital in Yedikule, was moved to this building in 1902 and the building began to be used as the Greek Orphanage from then on. In addition to education, the orphanage also provided vocational training so that children could have a profession.
As a result of World War I and the events that followed, the children in the orphanage, which was used as a barracks, were moved to Heybeliada. For a while, the island hosts Greek immigrants brought to the island by the occupation forces, and for a while it hosts Russian refugees fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Seeking shelter from the cold, the refugees damaged the building by dismantling the wooden coverings of the building for heating.
The building, which was closed in the 1960s, has survived without any function in the following years and still stands on that hill.