On Istiklal Avenue, Istanbul’s most frequented avenue, Çiçek Pasajı (Flower Passage) tops the list of the well-known places of entertainment. The most decorated building of Beyoğlu thanks to its spectacular ornaments, Çiçek Pasajı is by far the first answer given to the question “What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Beyoğlu” in a survey conducted by the Association of Beautification of Beyoğlu.
Let’s take a look at the history of this entertaining place and why it is called Çiçek Pasajı.
After the collapse of Naum Theater, considered one of the European culture centers of the city, visited by the sultans to watch theater, where Verdi had staged his famous opera “Il Trovatore” even before Paris, in the Great Pera Fire of 1870, Çiçek Pasajı has been rebuilt but this time in a different form.
Bought by Hristaki Zografos Effendi, one of the Greek bankers, when its construction was completed in 1876, it was reborn as a bazaar and block of flats as per the Italian architect Cleanthy Zanno’s project. 24 shops were collectively known as “Hristaki Passage” and the building composed of 18 luxurious flats as “Cite de Pera”. The first occupiers of the passage were the establishments like Acemyan’s tobacco shop, Maison Parret & Vallaury’s patisserie, Japanese store, Natürel florist, Pandelis’s florist shop, Schumacher’s bakery, Papadopulos’s bindery, Keserciyan’s tailor shop, Yorgo’s tavern, Sideris’s furrier’s shop.
In 1908, Grand Vizier Little Said Pasha bought the building. In the armistice years, the White Russians escaping the revolution in Russia settled in the passage. These Russians trying to make a living by selling flowers under difficult conditions had turned the passage into a huge flower bazaar. After a while, Cite de Pera became a place where flower auctions were organized in Istanbul. The other flower sellers in Beyoğlu also came together in the passage, thus making the name of the passage “Flower Passage”.
When Nektar Beerhouse and Yorgo Effendi’s tavern built in the 1940s began to attract huge numbers of customers, first the building occupants and then the flower sellers moved to other places. New taverns were launched in vacated places. At the end of the 1950s, the name “Flower” was nothing more than a memory, and the passage developed totally its present-day identity.
The neglected building that collapsed suddenly at the midnight of May 10, 1978 had been left collapsed until 1988. Later, it was repaired on the initiative of the Municipality and the “Association of Preservation and Beautification of Çiçek Pasajı” founded to save the passage and commissioned again, true to its original form, in December 2005.
Today, Çiçek Pasajı is still one of the first places coming to mind when it is the night entertainment on Istiklal Avenue.