It is stated in the newspaper that For more than a century, the grand Italianate mansion that serves as an anchor of this city’s European quarter was a beehive of American diplomacy and espionage. Spies toiled within and met their agents at the bar across the street, reporters dropped by for after-work drinks, and any Turk could walk in off the street to see the latest art exhibition or browse the library. There seemed to be a celebration every night.In 2004, Congress, through the efforts of the former Senator Ernest F. Hollings and backed by onetime Istanbul diplomats who wanted the United States to preserve the building’s history, created the Hollings Center for International Dialogue. The idea was to use the mansion as a place to “reinforce communication and understanding between the U.S. and the Muslim world,” according to the center’s website.
But the cost of renovations and upkeep eventually made it necessary to find a commercial use for the structure, known as the Palazzo Corpi for the rich shipbuilder who had it constructed in the 19th century as his home. Soho House, with its Turkish partner Bilgili Holding, has invested nearly $110 million in the project and is now the primary tenant, while the Hollings Center will have an office in the building and run its programs and workshops from there.
Walking through the building recently for the first time in years, Ms. Ozakinci, who is not a member of the new club, marveled at the renovations, saying they had restored much of the original grandeur, even as she lamented that the mansion was not open to the public.
She described how the modest wife of one former ambassador had ordered that ceiling murals depicting nude goddesses be painted over. The murals have now been rescued from layers of oil and paint.
She said there had been a “secret floor” up top for the Central Intelligence Agency.
“We pretended not to know about that,” she said.
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A rooftop pool, flanked by yellow-and-white striped beds and with a sweeping view of the Golden Horn waterway and the minarets of the old city, is a fresh touch. Inside, a layered approach to interior design creates a “Downton Abbey”-meets-“Mad Men” effect, mixing late 19th-century with midcentury modern furniture. There are vintage club chairs and old chesterfield sofas, and many new pieces manufactured in Turkey and made to look antique by workers banging away with hammers and chains.