The Levant is an historic geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean. In its widest historical sense, the Levant included all of the eastern Mediterranean extending from Greece to the Eastern coastal region of Lydia. Therefore, the word Levantine has been used to mean “person of Eastern Mediterranean origin”. The term of Levantine became current in English in the 16th century, along with the first English merchant in the region; English ships appeared in the Mediterranean in the 1570s, and the English merchant company signed its agreement with the Ottoman Sultan in 1579.
As the Levantines were a bridge between the European economy and the Ottoman Empire, they themselves formed the group dealing with industry and trade within the empire’s borders. In Paul Dumont’s study on Ottoman Freemasonry, it was written that freemasonry was in the hands of minorities. Even among the “new members”, we see some people from many French and other European countries who have come to look for a future for them in the East. And this situation, which occurred in time, formed an intricate structure, and gradually began to separate Levantines and Ottomans from each other.
He was born in Istanbul in 1850 as the son of a Levantine family of French origin. His father, Edouard Vallaury, settled in this city after he came to Istanbul as a staff member of the French ambassador Horace Sébastiani sent to Istanbul; He was a French dealing with pastry and confectionery.
Alexandre Vallaury went to Paris for his architectural education and the best architectural education school of the period; He studied at the Paris School of Fine Arts (Ecoles des Beaux-Arts). He won the Rome Grand Prize in 1855 and returned to Istanbul after completing his education in 1880. He first made a name for himself in painting exhibitions in Istanbul. He exhibited his works by participating in the first exhibition of Elifba Art Club, which is thought to have been established between 1879-1880, in September 1880. He also participated in the second exhibition of Elifba Club, which was opened this time in Tepebaşı Municipality garden on 8 April 1881.
He became famous with the Ottoman Bank General Directorate building he built in Galata in 1892. Other architects built office buildings in Galata and Karaköy, taking this structure as an example. Osman Hamdi Bey, who was appointed as the director of the Museum-i Hümayun in 1881, gave the construction of a new museum building to Vallaury. Thus, Vallaury became the architect of one of the 8-10 museums designed and built as a museum building in the world at the end of the 19th century. He built large-scale buildings such as Pera Palace (1893), Yeni Karaköy Han (1893), Tokatlıyan Hotel, Büyükada Rum Yetimhanesi, Union Françoise building.
The story of Pera Palace Hotel started at the end of the 19th century. When the world-famous Orient Express started its Paris-Istanbul train services in 1888, there was no hotel in Istanbul that could offer the high standards that Orient Express passengers are accustomed to. This gap was filled by the Pera Palace Hotel, whose foundation works started in 1892 and the opening celebration was held in 1895. The hotel was located in the Tepebaşı area of Pera, known as “little Europe” due to its cultural and social activities, with a magnificent view of the Golden Horn.
La Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits et des Grands Express Européens, the owner of the Orient Express at that time, established its own business company in 1896 and took the semi-ownership of Pera Palace Hotel designed by Levantine architect Alexander Vaullary. The hotel had a brilliant period until the First World War.
When Pera Palace Hotel was opened as one of the most magnificent buildings in Istanbul, it contained many firsts; It was the building in Istanbul where electricity was provided, the first electric elevator and the first running hot water, except for the Ottoman palaces. Turkey’s European Pera Palace Hotel, the first hotel in the standard, by witnessing the historic event since its establishment has become one of the most important symbols of urban culture.
Pera Palace has also hosted Mustafa Kemal Atatürk many times since 1917. Room 101, which he used as his home when he returned to the front, made important decisions for the country and hosted high-level guests, was turned into a museum room where Atatürk’s personal belongings were exhibited in 1981, the 100th anniversary of his birth. Due to this feature Pera Palace Hotel, is like a “museum-hotel”.