”Higher... higher... that's it. Now slowly take it to the right," the Greek prince
commented as he watched the workers carefully pull up the big monolithic column
that would soon hold large balcony of the house.
Sweating and feeling tired from the heat of the summer’s day, the young prince turned
to walk back to his cool tent, content with the building of his new house.
“It will look magnificent once it's finished,” he thought to himself, settling into
his comfortable divan. Suddenly, a worker barged into his quarters. He was panting
and had a terrified look on his face.
"My prince, please come quick! There is a man in danger!"
They both ran out into the field and looked up to see a young worker hanging from
the roof of the house, desperately crying for help.
"HELP HIM!" shouted the prince, "You three, get up there and help him down!"
I can't believe this is happening to me! I am hanging from the roof of my prince's
new home, and am about to fall to my death! "HELP!" I screamed. “Somebody help me,
please!" Oh no... I’m slipping... “HELP!”...I am going to fall...I'm...AHHHHHHHH!
But before anyone could move, there was a bloodcurdling scream of terror, the young
man fell to the ground.
Everyone gathered around the lifeless body, petrified by the deadly scene. Slowly,
one of the servants who was crouched by the hapless young nan, looked up at the
prince and whispered, ”He's not moving, my prince. He is dead.”
That’s how it all begun and that is why I am still in this house, a relic from the
past. I have been a ghost since the year 1651 and for two hundred and thirty five
years, I have been wandering the halls, searching for a way out. After witnessing
all that has occurred in this house, I feel I should tell you my story.
I shall start from the very beginning, before I was even born. (God knows how long
ago that was.) There weren’t any houses built around Bournabat back then, and not
until pirates started attacking the shores of Smyrna did the people begin to build
houses inland. These thieves were not only stealing the belongings of all the people,
but they were also burning the houses down. So you see, the residents of the area
had no choice but flee the coast.
Another reason for the sudden outburst of new houses inland was the plague, which
came out many years after the invasions. Cholera spread around the coast each summer,
so people avoided this disease by moving to their "summer homes” in this area, and
went back to the coast for the winter. Gradually, people started to live here permanently.
After all, it is a lost beautiful place to live (take it from me, I’ve lived here
If you had examined all the houses back in the 1700's, you would have noticed many
similarities between them. Unfortunately, you can't tell very much now. First of
all, the houses of Bournabat- which is now called "Bornova”- all had gates and were
mostly built by Greek builders. They also had stone benches on which people sat
and chatted when they passed by. Now I must tell you, since it was a small neighborhood,
everybody knew each other. Bournabat was like a colony itself. These townspeople
were called Franks. All this reminds me of a Greek custom carried out during the
early 1900’s. The occupants of the homes brought out jam and cold water during the
evenings, when they had visitors sitting on their benches for a small chat. They
would all have tea and converse until it was time for the guests to leave.
The two floored houses are set in from the road, in large grounds consisting of
trees and pools. And one important thing: they are all beautiful. But personally,
I believe this house is the most magnificent of them all- just like my prince had
Before I relate to the ancestors of this "Bornova home", I would like to give you
a closer look of the house. The street which the residence was situated on was Hurriyet
Caddesi, but later was changed to Genclik Caddesi. The first structure of the house
was just a "square" shape. As the years advanced, more parts were added, until it
acquired today’s form.
In the 1890's, the windows at the rear end of the house, were "mullion windows".
They were later changed to big square ones. An interesting thing that I have discovered
is the presence of mullion windows in the conservatory, in which flowers were kept
during the winter.
Looking at the Plans again, I can see there has been a significant change in the
drawing room. There was once a piano there, but was later moved to the dining room,
by the exit door. Before the room was a drawing room, it was actually a dining room.
Guess what I stole from the table? No, not the silver. A menu card! I even brought
it here for you. I think it is the most amusing thing. It seems as if the occupants
of the house are eating at a luxurious restaurant rather than at their own home.
Once you examine the second floor landing you will think, "Wow, look at all those
bedrooms!" I'm sure you would like to know that the rooms on the right of the stairs
are off limits to anyone at this present day. The rooms are old and the floor cracks
with the slightest weight. I'm afraid people will fall through to take a short cut
to the bottom floor.
Let's take a peek at the garden now. For those of you who are wondering about heaven,
just take a stroll in the garden and let your surroundings sink into your soul.
The beauty and tranquility of this grand garden has led me to believe it is heaven
The gardener who planted the garden was the same man who did the Royal Botanic Garden,
"Kew Gardens", in London, England. The drainage is perfect, you see, for the garden
is done on a slant- which is an excellent advantage. We don't want to drown in the
puddles after the rain, do we?
The paths off the sides of the main alley, they are covered with weeds and flowers.
Where the lemon, bitter orange, orange, and fig trees are, there are mounds of daisies
during the spring, and a couple of orange trees left.
There are three huge pots scattered around the garden, used for decorative purposes
and/or to put oil in. Very creative, don't you think?
Even though there were a lot of changes in the garden, it still displays true beauty.
In fact, the back garden is so beautiful during the spring, that I simply call it,
"the power of nature."
How that you have read everything there is to know about the Bournabat house and
its garden, you are ready for my story. I will walk you through the some of the
important events that has taken place in the Bournabat home from the 1700's up to
this beautiful spring day in April of 1994. But you are lucky, for I am a very experienced
guide. After all, I lived through it all!
It is now 1798, the year Sultan Selim III took over the Ottoman Empire. Where Izmir
is now, was Smyrna then. I am standing in the Entrance Hall sitting room, and everything
seems peaceful and quite at the Bournabat home.
Wait, I hear something ....
Brisk footsteps followed up the marble stairs, and then a key rattled at the door.
In stumbled a young man with long breeches and a tail coat. (I have to keep reminding
myself that we're in the past- the fashion changes, you know.) He looked around,
tapping his cane on the floor, then advanced towards the big dining room.
"My, my .... This surely is a remarkable house!" he said to himself as he tipped
his hat back to see the Corinthian designs on the ceiling. "I thought the Greek
prince was exaggerating when he described this place as, "magnificent". Hmmm, let’s
see upstairs now.”
That was John Haltass, the new owner of the Bournabat home. If my memory serves
me correctly, he shall marry the daughter of Gaspard Alexandre Belleville in 1805:
Louise Anne Francoise. The reason for a different last name is because she was married
to a Hr. Francoise before she fell in love with Johnny boy here.
Ooooh! Sorry about that. I didn't want to hit 1821 so hard. I’m sitting at the dining
room table with all the members of the Haltass family. There is Hr. and Hrs. Haltass
with their four children: Augusto, Helene, John Jr., and Eugenie, the "star" of
the family. She will continue the family line.
”I’m going to marry a prince." little Helene said to her mother. "He’s going to
come to the house with his beautiful, white horse, and take me away!" (Sorry to
spoil your dreams but you will marry a Richard Abbott, and he is not a prince.)
"But aren't you going to miss us, princess?" asked John, smiling at his wife. "Who
is going to sit with me by the fireplace and listen to my stories?"
"Oh father," John Jr. complained, "You are doing everything possible to spoil her!"
He turned to look at Eugenie, who was quietly eating her dinner.
This young, intelligent girl later married Charles Wood, who was sent by the Duke
of Richmond to work at the British Hospital, here, in Smyrna. In fact, that's where
the two met. "All right, children," announced Mrs. Maltass. "Time to wash up, get
into your nighties, and settle down by the fireplace for your father's stories."
After the children excused themselves, she looked at John with a grin on her face.
"I sometimes wonder what the future holds for them."
I wonder if Mrs. Maltass would have passed out if she knew Helene was going to be
the mother of sixteen children.
"HAPPY NEW YEAR, TO A NEW CENTURY!"
Wow, that hurt my ears! What's going on here... Oh, stupid me. How could I forget
such an important date? It's January I, 1900! Look at all these people! So many
colorful dresses and handsome couples. Too bad the "Twist" hasn't come out yet.
There they are, the Wood family, standing by the glowing Christmas tree. Now get
ready for this: Charles Jr., Hortense, Evelene, Louise, Fred, Evie, John, and Lucy
(the family descendent)!
Mr. Charles Wood seems very happy...
"To the family...!" Crystal glasses clinked with gaiety, and laughter was exchanged
among the cheerful crowd. Mr. Wood then turned to his son and carefully took the
glass of champagne from his hand.
"Come on Frederick, play or us on the piano."
"Yes, yes, Fred. Do play for us!" pleaded Evie, clapping her hands. She grabbed
her brother's arm, dragged him all the way to the piano, and forced him down on
All the guests hushed themselves into silence and waited for the young boy to begin.
Once again, Frederick played beautifully. His fingers sweeped smoothly over the
piano keys of the grand piano in the most talented manner.
You might be interested to know that Frederick Wood was not only an excellent pianist,
but he also seized the reputation for being the best poker player in the Middle
East. Too bad he never married. Now Evie is a different story. I get the impression
that she was a "romantic" person and only interested in money. She married one of
the Ralli brothers, who was from an exclusive family in London. They were all snobbish
and didn't care much for other people. Nevertheless, the wedding seemed to have
been fantastic! I didn't go for I had a bridge game that evening with the "ghost
I don't know anything about John Richard Wood except that he never married. Sorry,
I couldn't follow that side of the line.
The future of Louise held a successful marriage with Ernest W. Patterson, who owned
the Bournabat stables situated in the garden. Every Sunday there were races in which
the horses from the stable competed.
If I didn't know better, I would have thought Aphrodite and Lucy Wood were twin
sisters! Norbert DeCramer was the lucky guy to seize this beauty. (It must have
been that satin hat with its translucent veil she never took off when invited for
tea.) Also, a significant bit about Norbert DeCramer, is that when he was a student
and an Austrian count, he was issued a ”laisser passer” which was used as a passport
before the "passport era.” This precious document, dating August 12, 1863, was signed
by the Austrian Albassador to France, Prince Richard von Metternich Winneburg. The
impressing thing is that the document itself can still be found at the Bournabat
Lucy gave birth to four pretty children: Giselle, Fernand, Eugene, and Renee (the
family descendent). The unfortunate death of her husband motivated Lucy to build
a vault in the Protestant Bornova Cemetery for all Catholic members of the family.
Not just a pretty woman, but a thoughtful one too.
I would like to explain to you a little bit about Hortense Wood. She never married,
for she was never interested. Not only was this woman a great feminist, but she
was also a good poetess, great composer, and a very gifted painter. Would you believe
she took lessons from the famous Hungarian composer, Franz List?! No wonder she
was a great pianist!
Hortense Wood - One of her sketches
Hortense Wood displayed great courage during the war. She and Fernand, who I will
tell about later on, were the only ones to stay behind at the Bournabat home. The
rest of the family fled the war that was taking place in Smyrna. Hortense Wood spent
her time writing in her diary...
Richard Abbot comes with a message from the British Vice Consul, waiting outside
with a motorcar and offering me a seat to take me to town. 'My last chance” he said.
I thank and decline, preferring to remain quietly here.
Listening to Hortense read from her diary, I came to the conclusion that she was
a woman of ”nature." Listen to her now...
“Bournabat is like a beautiful Swiss landscape. Everything covered with snow. .
. especially beautiful is the view from my window. The trees round the basins. .
. yielding under the weight of the snow...” Hortense stopped writing and gazed out
from the drawing room window at the pigeons soaring in the clear blue sky. She heard
Fernand calling her so she slowly got up and left the room.
Let me tell you a quick story. On the night of October the 2nd, I was solving one
of Louise’s Crossword Puzzle books, and was interrupted by footsteps reverberating
from the Entrance hall. It was four o'clock in the morning and I had a chilling
feeling that whoever was in the house, was not someone from the house. I quickly
glided "towards the hall and saw a shadow proceed up the stairs. I thought for a
minute it was Casper playing a prank on me, but I figured it couldn’t be him because
it wasn’t April the 1st. So, I followed the echo of the up the stairs, to Hortense’s
bedroom. Then l saw the light go on and off.
"Who's there?" I heard Hortense ask, alarmed from the sudden entry of this stranger.
Then I saw him, a soldier, run back down the stairs and out of the house. The frightened
woman dashed out of her room and flew into Fernand's.
The following day, she reported the soldier to the first lieutenant, who became
furious and sent the man to join another "requirement" after rudely scolding him.
As Hortense wrote in her diary, "He gave strict orders to all the soldiers threatening
severe punishment to anyone who dared touch anything in this house." I knew from
that day on, there was no messing with "Aunty" when it came to the protection of
the Bournabat home.
Days were tough after that. Smyrna was in the middle of a terrible war, and on the
night of September 15, I managed to read Hortense's diary while she was eating dinner.
"The town set on fire. We can see the red glow illuminating the sky and glowing
smoke ascending over higher. Bombs are constantly exploding and the sound reaches
us very distinctly..."
On New Year's Eve, Hortense revealed her thoughts by writing, "Farewell 1922! Year
of misery and death!"
But then, Mustafa Kemal came into the picture. Hortense was a great admirer of Ataturk.
She wrote him many letters before his arrival to Smyrna, inviting him to the Bournabat
home. September the 11th, Kemal Ataturk came to the city, after his "splendid" troops
marched into town, with "perfect discipline", as Hortense described in her diary.
All looked superb in their "spotless uniforms" and even their horses seemed to be
in very good condition. Ataturk later used the Bournabat house as his headquarters.
It is five days after the arrival of "the great leader". Hortense is busily scribbling
in her diary.
I'm walking towards her, and I can see she is very excited. What is she writing?
"Arrival of Kemal Pasha in our house together with Ismet Pasha and other generals
and the famous Turkish lady, Halide Edip Hanim. I received them and expressed my
joy at making the acquaintance of Kemal, I so admire. After a quarter of an hour's
conversation with me, Kemal with five others went upstairs to discuss the answer
to the allies. The fate of the Empire was being discussed just outside my bedroom
I don't think I have to explain my overwhelmed feelings after such an entry.
Now we will travel back to Hortense's sister, Lucy DeCramer. Remember her children?
Giselle, Renee, Eugene, and Fernand.
I think Eugene DeCramer is a very interesting individual. He lived in Paris for
a while, where he used to read his book on Egypt upside down. His sister, Renee,
had to turn the book around every time. Don't ask me why, I was never able to figure
that part out. He never married as well. (This must be some kind of tradition in
the family. Many of the family members never got married, and when they did, they
donated eight to sixteen kids to the world population! God should have forbidden
them to wed!)
Fernand DeCramer married Winnie Charnaud, but didn't have any children. He studied
painting in Paris and lived in the city for some time. Fernand owned a studio there,
but unfortunately after much bad luck, he returned to Bournabat as a broke man.
Then of course, he stayed behind with Hortense during the war. You know the rest
of that story.
For one thing, Fernand chased women all his life. He was handsome, yes, but was
also a very lazy man. In fact, he was so inactive that he used to stand in front
of the Bournabat Club, with the intentions of playing a game of poker, and wait
until a waiter opened the gate for him. Although the joke was probably irritating,
I think it was very amusing.
There he is right now, sitting by the fireplace. No, he's not with "another" woman.
He's playing chess with Kemal Ataturk. Ever since Kemal has been using the house
as his headquarters, they've had quite a few chess games together.
Giselle is the only member of the family to marry an American man, Ivan Bowdoin.
She had two sons: Ramond and Vivian, who both brought unbearable grief to the family...
"The telephone!" called out Mrs. Bowdoin. "Never mind, I'll get it." She hurried
to the dining room and picked up the phone. "Hello? Yes?.. yes... Oh, no... Are
they... I'm coming right away!" Without even putting on her coat, Giselle ran out
of the house on her way to the city hospital.
"NOOOOO!" she screamed, throwing herself on his lifeless body. "You can't leave
us... Vivian, you were too young to die... no..." She weeped uncontrollably, rocking
her blood streaken son back and forth.
Ramond was standing at the corner, staring at them, still in shock. The grief stricken
mother slowly walked over to her trembling son, and took him in her weakened arms.
"I know it was an accident, Ramond. You've lost a brother, as I've lost a son. Vivian
will forgive you..."
What had apparently happened was that Ramond had found an old gun. Thinking it was
unloaded, he aimed at Vivian, and shot him dead. This tragic incident certainly
brought great sorrow to the rest of the family, but in time, the wounds healed and
the hurt was gone. They all knew that Vivian would live in their hearts forever.
As for Ramond, he had to go on with his life, surrounded by the dreadful memory
of "the fatal day." He shared his life with a widow, cursed to remember the memories
of his unfortunate brother.
Although Renee (DeCramer) Lawson's mother died when she was seventeen, she still
managed to keep her tremendous sense of humor. According to "the ugliest satirist"
and poet, Mr. Molinari, Renee was the most charming and finest woman that existed
at the time, with apparently a great reputation for being the best Bezique player
in town. But Renee wasn't interested in him. Her heart was captured by Afred J.
I heard he lived in Cyprus at one time.
Unfortunately, Renee represents another story of sorrow. She was the mother of three
children: Thetis, Hugh, and Donald. But life was too harsh for one of her sons.
When she was playfully throwing Donald up in the air, the three month old baby hit
his head on the sharp end of a lamp, killing him instantly. The poor mother suffered
deeply, and was in a state of terrible guilt. From that day on, Renee became very
protective over her children, Thetis and Hugh for she did not want to lose them
"Uncle Hugh", as I've been used to calling him, was sort of a "celebrity" type of
person. He never married, like Hortense, for he wasn't interested in marriage either.
Hugh Lawson was a composer, a pianist, a clothes designer, and made excellent carpet
Hugh Lawson - Carpet Design
Hugh Lawson - Sketch 1
Hugh Lawson - Sketch 2
I can say Hugh was a lucky man, for Louise gave the Bournabat home to him before
she died. Fernand DeCramer was furious with her, for not inheriting the house, but
"c'est la vie"!
Thetis married Tony Matheys and lived in Buca for a while, until her husband bought
the Bournabat home from Hugh in 1940. Mrs. Matheys was not only an excellent wife,
but also a great cook! As for Tony Matheys, he was a man for sports! Matheys was
the golf player and best tennis player in town. He was also the star of the only
soccer team in Izmir. Very athletic, don't you think? As for his influence on the
garden, he was the one who got the little pond filled up with earth.
When war broke out, they both fled to Cyprus, where Thetis continuously wrote to
Hortense who stayed back to protect the house. When Thetis came back with Tony,
she looked "very pretty and very happy", according to Hortense's diary.
Before I go on explaining about the children, I would like to relate to you a true
story of the time when Thetis and Tony were engaged. It was very late at night,
when the two lovebirds and another couple were returning from a party, and they
passed by an old, deserted house. The owner had died twenty years ago and nobody
had been living there since. There was a bell on the gate, and if there was even
a slight movement, that bell would jingle for attention. Just as the four friends
were passing opposite the gate, they heard the deadly sound, and turned to see the
ghost of the dead man! This really is a true story, and it is up to you to believe
it or not. (I'm a ghost, so you better believe it!)
Renee and Sonia were born before they moved to the Bournabat house in 1941, a year
after it was bought. Unfortunately, bad luck remained in the family generation.
Thetis had a still-born son. Maybe that was the reason why she became nervous, short
tempered, and very strict. Another interesting fact about this austere mother, is
that she was an hypochondriac. It must have been quite depressing to think of oneself
as "constantly sick." Thetis was also very emotional about the house, for she was
afraid it wouldn't stay in the family.
Renee Matheys was born on the 31st of March, 1924. She married Max Richard Gustav
Steinbuchel (who the family called Opa"), a German gentlemen born in Remscheid,
Germany. They apparently got married at a stable, in Kirsehir (Central Anatolia),
because of the war.
The couple had two children: Max Anthony Jr. and Martin Hugh. In 1960, they all
moved to Gran, Algeria, which made Renee very upset over the bloodshed that was
going on there at that time. She was also homesick, and had missed her parents and
friends immensely. After three years of continuing war, they happily returned to
Bournabat to stay. Renee's husband died in 1989, and the one thing which I can tell
you about him that he was a very strong and self-disciplined man.
Sonia Matheys had a different life than her sister’s. The only thing which I know
about her childhood is that she played with her hair CONSTANTLY! She married Harold
Whittall, and had two children: Valerie and Sandra.
Harold later died from a heart attack in 1964. A couple of years later, Sonia left
for England, where she encountered Jack Nunes at his own Bridge Club. He soon became
an internationally known bridge player, who you can actually read about in bridge
We are back to the year 1994, in the garden of the now, "Bornova" home. It is Easter
and everyone has gathered for a family lunch. 0pa’s sister, Erica, has also come
to visit from Germany.
Martin is sitting with his wife, Karin, and her parents, Eric and Inge Lochner.
About Martin, I know that he lived in London and Germany for a while, and became
an excellent engineer, by training. He has actually invented a thousand different
machines! (Very impressive) He is more of a quiet person, who preferred to work
on wooden boats, cars, and machines during his childhood. A man who can work with
his hands actually can come in handy in a big house.
Karin and Martin have two children: Erich and Kristina. Seeing Erich's school uniform,
I can see he is studying at the Turk Koleji. Kristina is furthering her education
at the Dokuz Eylul University, to major in architecture. (How appropriate, if the
house falls down, she can build it again.)
Max Anthony, Jr. has just finished playing a tune on the piano, and is settling
himself into his chair. Did you know he was born in the same room which Ataturk
used when he came to Bournabat?
A couple of years later, the Steinbuchel family moved to a nearby house, and then
transferred to Algeria for three years. You know the rest of the story. But during
Max's childhood days at the Bournabat house, he had many adventurous birthdays (in
which he fainted on one). He was playing cowboys in the garden, and got hit in the
head by his friend on purpose. What an original birthday present! 'Thetis Matheys,
his grandmother, apparently had a fit, and swore, "As long as I live, I will not
have that wretched child in this garden!" So that was the end of another birthday,
but from the B-Day boy himself, the only thing I heard him say about those days
was that it rained every birthday morning, and cleared up by party time.
Although Max was a great flirt, starting at age twelve- especially with the "older
girls," he managed to settle down with Hulya, daughter of Sevim and Sakir Kolcular,
and have two kids: Caroline and Marc, who are both studying at the DoDDS American
School. Excuse me for a minute, but I'm going to steal an Easter egg from the table...
"I’ll get it!" Renee shouted amongst the bustling conversation at the table. She
picked up the receiver and her face lit up instantly. “Sandra! Hello, how are you?
.... Yes, yes, I'm fine, we’re all fine... yes, how are the children? Good, good.
Sandra, the line... I can’t hear you very well." Renee covered her free ear, and
upon seeing everybody’s kisses, she continued, "Yes, Happy Easter to you too.
Everyone here sends lots of love and kisses! Yes, you too, Sandra... I understand.
Sandra, one of Sonia's daughter, lives in the States. She is now married to Tom
Riffe, and gave birth to Jillian, who was the first new born baby of 1992! Her son,
Jonathan, is from Sandra’s first husband, Rick Benka. After Giselle, she is the
second family member to get married to an American man.
Sonia and Harold’s other daughter, Valerie, is now married to Ahmet Sagel, and is
the mother of three children: Cem, Selin, and Kaan, who was born on the same day
and hospital as Marc Steinbuchel. Ahmet is an architect, and the family lives in
the same garden as Renee now. The entrance to the stables and the garage at the
side was transformed into a house.
Well, everything has to come to an end. The Bournabat home has been through many
I have told you everything I know and experienced in this house. Now that I have
relived the history of this magical house, I don't want to leave it. I will stay,
where I can find peace and tranquility, even if there is a way out. But remember,
if you ever come to visit the house of Bournabat, know that I will be watching you
from behind its walls, adding you to my story.
As Aunt Hortense wrote in her diary, “Little looked we must part what thrilling
events you have recorded. Farewell, Farewell."
written by Caroline Zambrano (Steinbuchel) in 1994