The historic building which houses the Galata Antique Hotel in Istanbul was built in 1881 as a winter residence for the French Levantine family the Décugis. This beautiful mansion is one of the oldest stone buildings in the Taksim and Pera district.
Mr. Henri Hypollite Décugis, a French Levantine businessman, lived in this house with his family for over 60 years. He was a compelling and famous public figure.
His store, the “Constantinople-Pera”, was a fine example of the art-nouveau style buildings in Istanbul and located on the Grande Rue de Pera (now known as Istikal Avenue). Mr. Décugis sold valuable antiques, porcelain and crystal goods. He was an expert in his trade and was famous for his honesty and business ethics. His fine porcelain, Christofle silver cutlery and crystal chandeliers could be found in the grandest houses at the time, including the Dolmabahce Palace,the Pera Palace Hotel or the Markiz Patisserie.
After his wife’s death, he lived as a recluse in his mansion and closed all the shutters in sign of mourning. M. Décugis died in 1942 and was buried in the Feriköy Catholic Cemetery in Istanbul.
Alexandre Vallaury was the talented and remarkable architect who designed the Décugis mansion. Some uncertainties remain concerning his nationality but it is believed he was French. Born in 1850 in Istanbul, Vallaury was born in a Levantine family. He studied architecture at the school of Fine Arts in Paris, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. He received many awards for his work from both the French and Ottoman governments including the prestigious French Légion d’Honneur .
Leading families used to have their homes in the districts of Tepebasi and Pera. The architecture of these buildings has played an important part in setting the characteristics of the Taksim, Pera and Galata districts in Istanbul. Vallaury’s architectural approach was a blend of Islamic-Ottoman style and Neo-Classic style, to which he occasionally added Oriental elements.
Many outstanding monuments in Istanbul were built by Vallaury including the Pera Palace Hotel, the Cafè Marquise, the Ottoman Bank, the Union Francaise, Emek Passage in Istiklal Street, the Cemil Topuzlu Pasha Pavillion, the Lycée of Istanbul, the Istanbul Archeological Museum, the Buyukada Greek Orphanage, the Hidayet Mosque in Eminonu, the Afif Pasa Waterfront House and the Marmara University Faculty of Medicine together with Raimondo D'Aronco.