The last great ruler of the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Abdulhamid Khan was in the 14th year of his reign. There were numerous orphans, people in need, homeless in Istanbul who came out of wars. The sultan was upset that there were hundreds of people in need, who sought shelter in the capital of his country. The sultan reflected on this, and made a decision.
March 30, 1890. Sultan Abdulhamid II gave order for an operation that would permanently solve the shelter, food and other needs of beggars, the poor, and those in need who lived in the capital. The citizens of the Ottoman Empire had to be freed from the abasement of begging, and sheltered contentedly under state guarantee.
High state officials started to work as soon they received the order. A comprehensive, original and well thought project was prepared on the subject.
April 7, 1890. Sultan Abdulhamid, who had announced his imperial edict a week ago, gave another order. According to this, the institution to be established would be named “Darülaceze”. Sultan was in a rush. The delegation expedited their efforts.
April 13, 1890. Şûray-ı Devlet Tanzimat Department which was working on the establishment, system and administration of Darülaceze, announced the establishment of Darülaceze with an official statement. Upon Sultan’s orders, the subject was discussed in depth with the relevant departments and some principals were determined in as short as two weeks.
According to this statement, those who begged although they were fit to work, would be expelled from Istanbul. The disabled and citizens in need would be sheltered in Darülaceze without discrimination based on religion or race.
AN EMBRACING INSTITUTION
Another matter was the location of Darülaceze. Representatives from the patriarchate and the rabbinate were also requested to determine the location of the building. Because Darülaceze was aimed to be an embracing institution.
On April 24th, 1890, Sultan Abdülhamid Khan approved the delegation and the work calendar. A commission of sixteen people, consisting of merchants, bankers and some institution directors, started to work under the leadership of the Minister of Finance Agop Pasha.
Darülaceze was to be established with donations. First donation was from Sultan Abdulhamid, who gave the order and pursued it. Sultan donated a furniture set worth 7 thousand lira and also 10 thousand lira cash. Sultan’s conduct set an example for the people and 70 thousand lira were raised in a short time.
Commission worked on issues such as the project, location, plan, management, technical and social facilities of the building until 1892.
A tender was announced for construction of Darülaceze complex. Many people applied but Vasilaki Effendi, who was a foreman in Tersâne-i Âmire, won the tender.
November 10, 1892. The groundbreaking ceremony for the complex, honoured by Minister of Internal Affairs Halil Rıfat Pasha, was held. At the ceremony, prayers were said and 21 rams were sacrificed for the process to be completed favourably.
While the construction was underway, they worked on the management plan of Darülaceze, its internal regulations, personnel planning, acceptance conditions, income sources, regulations and system. Every detail and all circumstances that may arise, were considered. Commission conducted a rigorous operation.
On February 2, 1896, Darülaceze was opened. Halil Rıfat Pasha, who laid the foundations of the building as the Minister of Internal Affairs, was now the Grand Vizier. Opening this important institution built by the order of Sultan, was of course worthy of the grand vizier. Darülaceze was a major institution with an administration building, four buildings, two for men and two for women, a 200-bed hospital, an orphanage, a laundry, a Turkish bath, service buildings, workshops for handicrafts, a bakery and places of worship under its roof. There was a section to breastfeed the children, a school and even small factories to provide income to Darülaceze.
At the first stage, 150 women, 37 boys and 28 girls were placed in Darülaceze. Children were schooled. Seven of these children later received Hafiz title.
In those days there were weaving, shoe-making, tailoring, carpentry, blacksmith and photography workshops in Darülaceze and it has a system which has allowed it to maintain itself since its establishment.
Since then, it has been a shelter for thousands of people in need with its unique order and system.
Darülaceze is a sacred institution which is a gift from Turkish nation to the world.