If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul. ~Alphonse de Lamartine
1870 – Great Fire of Pera (illustration)
View of the ruins after the great fire at Constantinople. Illustrated on London News on July 2, 1876. The remnants of the British Embassy can be seen in the background.
On June 5, 1870, a horrendous fire in Pera which is known as “The Great Fire of Pera” today, destroyed a large part of the district. It is also known as “The Great Fire of Constantinople”. Pera, today’s Beyoğlu, located on the European side of Constantinople (now İstanbul), separated from the old city (historic peninsula of Constantinople) by the Golden Horn, was the district of diplomatic residences and European society around 1870. Actually, now, it still is.
The great fire destroyed two-thirds of the quarter, burnt down countless buildings and killed many people – perhaps thousands. Many hotels, night clubs, theaters, and embassies went up in flames. British embassy, which already burnt down once before in the great fire of 1831, also destroyed. Because of the wooden buildings and the strong wind, the fire spread rapidly. According to the Manchester Weekly Times, a weekly newspaper published from 1828 to 1922 in Manchester, England, “…sheets of the flame extended a mile in length”. The fire was put out after thirteen hours. But, even after then, some burned houses continued falling down and killing yet more people. According to Glasgow Daily Herald (founded in 1873, it is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world), cannons were used to bring down such dangerous buildings.