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Following the conquest of Istanbul, an arsenal was set up just outside Galata’s Eastern gate. This gate was eventually named Tophane Gate, literally the ‘‘Gate of the Arsenal’’. The Levantines called it the ‘‘Porta delle Bombarde’’. In a 1537 Ottoman album named ‘‘Beyân-ı Menâzil-i Sefer-i Irâkeyn-i Sultân Süleymân Hân’’, it is possible to see a high-profile building with a lead roof right outside the walls by the sea side.


Evliya Çelebi tells us that the buildings in the Tophane complex were erected progressively during the reigns of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror and Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. However, now we know that the buildings were all demolished and rebuilt during the reign of Sultan Süleyman. Evliya lets us know that the first resident of the Tophane Summer Palace was Sultan Ibrahim, and that ever since then it was also used by other rulers.


The rest of the buildings in the Tophane complex were renewed in 1745 under Mustafa Ağa, who was both head architect and Head of the Arsenal. The buildings erected were among the most beautiful of the time.


Aside from providing for the needs of the artillery, the Heads of the Arsenal also organized the defense of the Beyoğlu area. The management of the Tophane district was heirarchical in nature. First came the Head of Artillery, then the Head Smelter, the Arsenal Overseer, Arsenal Chamberlain, the Arsenal Custodian, and finally the Arsenal Sergeant.


Following the forced disbandment of the Janissaries on June 18th 1826, a period of chaos ensued where numerous Ottoman military groups were formed to fill the vaccum of power left behind by the Janissaries. This period of uncertainty continued until the establishment of an Ottoman police force named ‘‘ Zaptiyye’’ in 1846.


The Artillery Lodge, which played a role in the forced disbandment of the Janissaries, survived this period unscathed and continued to provide public order for the region of Galata. In 1832, the Administration for Military Supplies as well as the Administration of Gunpowder Factories were incorporated into the Artillery Lodge.


Thus, the Tophane Directorate was established. There was said to be a Sultan’s residence here until the Tophane Directorate was established in 1832. In Lewis’ İstanbul Album dating from 1836 you can partially see the entrance and façade of this building. Some of the details that can be seen are stone railings on a ramp facing the Bosphorus, a monumental wooden cornice covered in lead which rests on two columns with Corinthian capitals, and lead-covered wooden bay window. This original structure was badly damaged due to fires and it was eventually replaced by barracks built during the reign of Sultan Mahmud II. After the fires of 1863, the new building of the Tophane Directorate was erected here.


There is no similarity in terms of use between the former Topçubaşı palace and today’s Tophane Summer Palace. In the past many buildings located in Tophane were visited by the sultans. As far as we know, since the 16th century, according to a tradition, sultans who came to watch the casting of cannonballs saw the need for a building nearby that would provide rest for the ruler himself and host banquets for grand viziers and other senior government executives.


The Tophane Summer Palace was built in 1849 by William James Smith who had earlier settled in İstanbul in 1841 for the construction of the English Embassy. Despite the fact the architect was a foreigner, the palace bears striking similarities with the Beykoz Pavilion, Küçüksu Palace, and the Ihlamur Summer Palace. It is in this period that many old wooden buildings and palaces began to be replaced with stone structures on the Bosphorus.


The ledge overhanging the entrance and the three-windowed potrusion on the Western end of the structure add character to the building. The main entrance faces the site of a former square, but today the back side of the building is what receives the most attention because it overlooks a busy road. Other interesting architectural details in the palace include: the round, arched windows, the roof parapet with ballustrades, the façade medallions and ribbons, and the floral motifs.


This low-lying building, which few seem to notice, is today covered with trees growing in an uncontrolled environment. The palace is currently being used by the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University but it needs thorough restoration work as it needs to be raised at least 50 centimeters above the road level to make the structure more visible.