”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 for centuries!).
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 predicted.
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 itself.
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 the seat.
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 club”.
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 home.
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!