From architectural works to technological advancements and from social life to culture and economic standards, Istanbul has been home to a number of interesting novelties over the years. Süleyman Faruk Göncüoğlu has conducted research on these first-time experiences that are vital for our cultural history, publishing the book titled, "Istanbul'un İlkleri" (The Firsts of Istanbul). His book, published by the Timaş Publishing House, is an anthology made up of Istanbul's firsts, including the ancient Byzantine, Ottoman and the Republican periods of Istanbul's history. This book compels the reader to roam the hall of the first exhibition in Istanbul and listen to the first "hello" sounds coming from a telephone receiver for the first time in Istanbul. Based on Göncüoğlu's research, we have compiled a number of examples among this intriguing list of firsts.
First automobile on roads of Istanbul
Istanbulites saw the first private gasoline-powered automobile in Istanbul's Fenerbahçe neighborhood in 1895. Setting their eyes on a Renault-Landaulet belonging to Basra Deputy Züheyrzade Ahmet Pasha, the people showed a great deal of attention to the vehicle. As importing liquid fuel vehicles was allowed as of Aug.17, 1907, the number of vehicles gradually increased in Istanbul. The first traffic accident reportedly occurred involving the Italian Embassy's private driver in front of the Şişli Mosque, who eventually ended up being apprehended by police in the Pangaltı neighborhood.
Istanbulites experience basketball
The first basketball game in Istanbul was played at Robert's College 113 years ago. Seven years after this first game, another game was organized at the sports hall of Galatasaray High School, while the first professional basketball game was held between a Turkish and an American team on April 4, 1921 at a school building that is currently Cağaloğlu Vocational and Technical High School. The American team won the game with a score of 18-14.
First conversation on the phone
In 1881, Istanbul was enthralled by the first "hello" sound resonating from a telephone receiver. It wasn't until three years later with the introduction of the newly invented telephone at the 1878 Paris Exhibition that Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II kick started the works to set up Istanbul's first telephone network. By 1919, Istanbul's telephone switchboard had 9,600 subscribers, while the first long-distance telephone call being made between Istanbul and Ankara.
Football-mania begins in Istanbul
The first football game in Istanbul was held 121 years ago in Kadıköy's Kuşdili Meadow between Moda Club and a mixed team from İzmir province, whereas the first football club, namely the Black Stockings, was founded in 1897 by Fuad Hüsnü and his friends. Fuad Hüsnü was also the first Turkish football player from Istanbul. The first official Turkish sports club was the Galatasaray Sports Club.
Art galleries for the ancient city
The first exhibition hall was opened in 1901 at the Beyoğlu Şark Pasajı under the name of Pera Hall. Featuring painting and sculpture sections, the hall was shut down after three years. Four years after its closure, the first art exhibition in the city was organized by the Ottoman Painters Association under the title of "Galatasaray Exhibits" with the participation of 44 artists. These exhibits were regularly organized up until 1950s. Women painters also had a chance to feature their paintings for the first time at these exhibits.
First mansion with electricity, heating system
Surviving the period of Sultan Abdülhamid II, the Mahmud Cemil Molla Mansion has also seen many firsts. The mansion was built for Abdülhamid II's Justice Minister Mahmud Cemil in 1885 by Italian architect Alberti in a grove to the left of the Nakkaştepe Cemetery, which is located between the Kuzguncuk and Beylerbeyi neighborhoods. Signifying Istanbul's first steps toward modern life, the mansion also housed the first electricity, central heating and telephone systems installed outside of the palace. The heating system of the mansion is among the first instances of this system in Istanbul, while its electricity was provided from a special generator. The mansion is currently used as Mesa Construction's Istanbul office.
Moda: Where Istanbul's first beach opened
In his Istanbul Encyclopedia, Reşat Ekrem Koçu wrote that the sea bath culture was prominent in Ottoman period thanks to the Çardak Pier Sea Bath operating between 1826 and 1850. Istanbullites first met the concept of the "beach" when the Belarusians who fled from Russia arrived in Istanbul. The concept was exercised for the first time in the Moda neighborhood while the Muslims mostly preferred the Altınkum and Küçüksu beaches located in Rumelikavağı.