The Prinkipo Greek Orphanage (also known as Prinkipo Palace or Büyükada Greek Orphanage) is a historic 20,000-square-meter wooden building on Büyükada, one of the nine Princes’ Islands off the coast of Istanbul, Turkey, in the Sea of Marmara. It is considered the largest wooden building in Europe and second largest in the world. It served as an orphanage from 1903 to 1964.
It was designed and constructed in 1898 by the late-nineteenth century by the French-Ottoman architect Alexander Vallaury as a luxury hotel and casino for the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, the European passenger train company that operated the Orient Express. It was sold in 1903, however, when Sultan Abdul Hamid II would not issue a permit for its operation, and subsequently bought by the wife of a prominent Greek banker, who donated it to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which operated it as an orphanage. On April 21, 1964, during heightened tension of the Cyprus issue, the orphanage was forcefully closed by the General Directorate of Foundations (Vakif Genel Mudurlugu). Throughout its history, the orphanage has catered to the needs of 5,744 orphans.
The building is considered to be the largest wooden building in Europe and the second largest in the world (Todaiji Buddhist Temple being the largest). The orphanage consists of 206 rooms, a kitchen, a library, a primary school and vocational workshops. It is situated on top of the Isa Tepesi, a mountain 206 meters high on the island of Buyukada.
Since its closure half a century ago, the neglected building has deteriorated into a state of heavy disrepair. The building was severely damaged by a fire in 1980. The site was included on the 2012 World Monuments Watch and is presently classified as “Rescue Needed” by Global Heritage Network. In April 2012, it was announced that the building would be restored over the next two years to house an international environmental institute.
For years Büyükada Market has been held every Thursday between 6:00am and 12:00pm. Stalls and canopies are erected the previous day by the local market traders. Some of them live on the island but most come from Istanbul. They come to sell fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and cheese to the islanders. Over the years the market has expanded into the surrounding side streets. Here traders sell hand made items like lace tablecloths, scarves and rugs; as well as manufactured items like shoes, handbags and clothing. Bartering is expected.