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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Beauford and Baldwin in Istanbul

In the summer of 1966, Beauford spent several weeks with James Baldwin in Istanbul. Photographer and filmmaker Sedat Pakay met Beauford at that time and more recently wrote a beautiful tribute to him for the Les Amis blog.

When I informed Pakay that I would visit Istanbul and wished to see the place where Beauford and Baldwin lived, he referred me to Professor Kim Fortuny of Bosphorus University. Professor Fortuny wrote extensively about Baldwin's time in Istanbul in her book, American Writers in Istanbul. She connected me with Professor Ed Pavlic of the University of Georgia, who is a James Baldwin scholar, and we conferred on the exact addresses of Baldwin's residences in 1966. Both are in the Rumeli Hisari quarter, which takes its name from a 15th-century fortress in the area.

When my husband and I made the trip, Professor Fortuny was gracious enough to take us on a walking tour of the area and show us two places where Baldwin lived: a multi-story house on the Bosphorus shore road and a beautiful home - formerly Vefik Pasha's library - perched atop a steep hill.

Ahmed Vefik Pasha was a 19th-century Ottoman statesman and scholar. The building that housed his library is a few hundred yards down a small road from the massive and impressive fortress.

Rumeli Hisari
© Discover Paris!

The Pasha's library is now a private residence that is protected in part by a stone wall. The only glimpse of the grounds that is visible from the entrance is from the vantage point of a small opening in the metal gate.

The Pasha's library (side view)
© Discover Paris!

Grounds of the Pasha's library (viewed from opening in gate)
© Discover Paris!

The multi-story house on the shore road is where Beauford stayed with Baldwin. Biographer David A. Leeming describes it as "the little house on the Bosphorus," where Beauford "loved living with Jimmy, Richard [a friend of Baldwin] and me." Professor Pavlic shared a quote from a letter by Baldwin from this address dated July 26, 1966 that says "Beauford is here, very brown and working well."

House on the Bosphorus road near the strait
© Discover Paris!

Though the Bosphorus shore road beneath the Rumeli Hisari fortress is lined with cafés and quite busy, the neighborhood adjacent to the fortress and the Pasha's library is peaceful and idyllic to this day.

Rumeli Hisari viewed from the Bosphorus shore road
© Discover Paris!

Across the street from the entrance gate for the Pasha's library
© Discover Paris!

Homes near the Pasha's library
© Discover Paris!

The Rumeli Hisari fortress is located several miles north of the old city of Istanbul, which is where most of the major mosques and other attractions are located.

Hagia Sophia museum
© Discover Paris!

Blue Mosque
© Discover Paris!

Ablution fountain - Sultanahmet Hippodrome
© Discover Paris!

Many thanks to Professors Ed Pavlic and Kim Fortuny for sharing their knowledge and to Professor Fortuny for showing us the Rumeli Hisari quarter.

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