Saturday, July 1, 2017


Beşiktaş - Istanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°02'38.0"N 29°00'42.1"E / 41.043883, 29.011683

Kont Szchenyi Fire Brigade Museum photo firebrigade_museum117.jpg


The Fire Department Museum bears witness to the history of Turkish firefighting and rescue. The museum tells the visitors how the firefighters of the Istanbul city have struggled against fires for three centuries. It houses former water-pumping tools, steam-operated water-pumpers and horse-drawn water pumping tools. Also in the Fire Department Museum, you can find “Ottoman street firefighters” models and scene, military firefighters’ uniforms, fire axes, leather buckets, various paintings, and photographs about some fires in the city. It is located in the Beşiktaş District of the Istanbul City.

Istanbul Fire Brigade Museum presents a chronological history of fire fighting in Istanbul starting with the water pumpers (Tulumbaci in Turkish) of Ottoman times. All kinds of fire brigade equipments, from the first motorized fire engines to firemen’s clothing and tools, are displayed. Current building of museum was opened in 1992, after collecting and repairing many objects within the main Fire Brigade headquarters in Fatih district.

Fire Brigade is indispensable department of Ottoman Empire from 18th century’s first quarter to establishment of the Republic. Fire Brigade Museum exhibits the adventure of fire fighting in Istanbul since four centuries.

Istanbul Fire Brigade Museum Collection contains, Davud-u Hakiki’s Pump with pergola from 1714, district pumps, steam pumps and car pumps from 1800’s and also mise en scene of distric pumps, firefighters uniforms of military period, candles,limelight, fireman's axes, fabric cistern,l eather buckets, various paintings, photographs of some major fires events that occurred in Istanbul are being presented to visitors in IMM Fire Brigade Museum. Enterance is free.

The Fire Brigade was an indispensable department of the Ottoman Empire from the 18th century’s first quarter to establishment of the Republic. Sultan Abdülaziz invited Hungarian Count Odön Szechenyi to Istanbul to establish a proper fire brigade after the big fire event occurred in 1871. As a reward for his work Odön Szechenyi was bestowed with the title “Pasha” in 1880.

The museum was originally opened in 1932, but re-opened in its present building in 1992, after many objects were collected and repaired within the main Fire Brigade headquarters in Fatih district. The name of Odön Szechenyi was given to museum in 1998.

Sárvár-felsővidéki gróf Széchenyi Ödön (Edmond) came into this world on December 14, 1839, in Pozsony (now Bratislava).  In his early 20’s, there were some destructive fires at Nagycenk, the family estate, and later at nearby Fertőszentmiklós.  These two tragic events heavily influenced Ödön’s choice of career.

In 1862, he participated at the London world exhibit as fire commissioner, where he had a chance to study organized firefighting.  He met the world’s leading experts of state-of-the-art fire protection and learned the basic rules of “regulating nature”.  He also acquired some theoretical information and returned from his trip with a rowboat loaded with specialized textbooks.  From here on he spent most of his energy organizing the domestic fire department system. Based upon his academic knowledge as well as practical experiences from his hometown, he wrote the first Hungarian fire-fighting textbook.

At his own expense, he ordered hoses and other fire extinguishing equipment from England.  For a while he was active as commander of the City of Pest’s volunteer fire department and, in the late 1860’s, had the lion’s share in organizing the National Fire Protection Commission.

News of all this became widespread through the Western world and reached the Turkish Sultan Abdülaziz, who recognized the Hungarian fire fighting organization as the most modern and best organized in Europe.  With tightly built neighborhoods, narrow alleys and a great shortage of water, Constantinople had a history of fire devastation and was prone to be devoured by extensive fires.  The Sultan therefore asked Count Széchenyi Ödön to organize that city’s fire protection system.

Count Ödön accepted this important assignment.  (What a noble way to reciprocate the 150-year Turkish occupation!…) He had to overcome numerous huge problems of prejudice, organization, finances. Yet in the first year of his commission, he counteracted 17 fires that would have caused enormous damage before.    For his excellent work, he was awarded the rank of colonel in 1877, then that of field marshal and, ultimately, he was conferred the title of pasha.

All this devoted, passionate involvement that he took upon himself resulted in his staying in Constantinople.  However, that took a toll on his personal life. Pasha Széchenyi served half a century in Turkey, under four successive sultans. He won the confidence of all of them.  He was given the highest decorations in honor of his humble and effective service..  Yet, he preserved his Hungarian citizenship until his death!

He had married Almay Irma, a commoner, in 1864 and together they had three children (András, 1865; Vanda, 1870 and Olga, 1873).  His wife being reluctant to move to Turkey with him, Ödön left by himself, visited his family only occasionally, securing his children’s Hungarian education. After his alienated wife’s death in 1891, he married Eulalia Christopulos in 1892, legitimizing their liaison of several years.  They had four children together, György, Ilona, Gusztáv and Bálint.

Besides his unparalleled role in international firefighting, many domestic foundations, innovations and establishments could be credited to him, most visible of which are the Budavári Sikló (funicular connecting the Danube river bank with the Castle district), and the Fogaskerekű Vasút (Cog-wheel Railway, running from the Városmajor to the Széchenyi Mountain, in Buda).

While gróf Széchenyi Ödön, known as the “fire pasha”, was highly honored and decorated in Turkey and throughout Europe, he was virtually unrecognized in Hungary, possibly due to his tangled family affairs that were severely frowned upon by the Monarchy’s aristocracy.

He died in Turkey, in the 83rd year of his life, on March 24, 1922.  At his request, his remains were put to rest in Constantinople, in the Catholic section of the Feriköy Christian cemetery, on the European side of Istanbul.

This museum presents a chronological history of fire fighting in Istanbul starting with the water pumpers (tulumbacı in Turkish) of Ottoman times. All kinds of fire brigade equipment, from the first motorized fire engines to firemen’s clothing and tools, are displayed.


WEB SITE : Fire Brigade Museums

Tel : +90 212 259 9124
Fax : +90 212 259 1582
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