Before assessing the life in Kastamonu Mansions, one has to consider the cultural structure mansions have emerged. For it cannot be stated that there is a mansion which is a symbol of authenticity, and it is impossible to claim that “This is a typical mansion from Kastamonu.” The reasons may be explained that way: When Kastamonu was the continuous provincial center during a very long time span which entails both the period of Principalities and the Ottomans, the city had hosted many rulers who had been trained in the imperial regions of domination and clout. Indeed each ruler and governor transmitted the cultural wisdom of his own geography to Kastamonu. Thus one cannot explain otherwise the incongruity between the characteristics of the façades of the still present 534 mansions which have been registered as immovable cultural assets. “Kastamonu Mansions” which were built, by respecting its geography and with an understanding which made use of its downslope most efficiently are distinguished from Safranbolu Houses supposedly reminiscent of the former. Safranbolu Houses have the distinctive characteristics of the conception of Bazaar-Orchard house together with its trait of a farmers’ market for gatherers. Hence they are designed for seasonal life according to which windows are made. Although there are similarities between them wherein the structure, material used and the arrangements of interior places, one can assert a very distinctive quality. In Kastamonu Mansions usually with three storeys, and a garden, the first storey, unlike the one in Safranbolu Houses, is not unreceptive to the sound. It is utterly open to street and was arranged according to the daily needs of the lady of the house. The second storey was the domain of life of the family, the third storey was for guests, especially for those notable or who would lodge.
We mentioned about the function of the first storey. Let us make it clearer. The lady of the house prepared the dinner, made bread and was arranging seasonal preparations in this storey. It should especially be emphasized that Kastamou has 52 different kinds of bread and 835 different kinds of food. The significance of the space which the lady of the house, who should continously make preparations for summer and winter, made use of, is revealed once more. The patriarchal (actually matriarchal) family structure which remained upto 70’s made women incessantly productive. Therefore, the hearth and the stove located there was indispensible for the lady of the house so that the food of which the 540 kinds are not known in other places of our country might be cooked, and various sherbets, dried fruit roll-up, jam, pickle be prepared. For this reason, the reception of the family relatives (those as men and women were not secluded from each other whence hosted), and of the neighbours next door, their entertainment, the cooperative productions (e.g. production of Turkish style fermented sausage) are included in the life of the first storey. Within a mansion a crowded population appears where second or even third generations live together. This brings a division of labor per se. There appeared no hand maiden or concubine in Kastamonu Mansions, but “ortakçı” (share cropper) or “butler of the family” was a reality which was necessitated by the ownership of the village. Occasionally these members of the family were helping for the tasks of the mansion situated in the city.
The second storey was the place where family members lived. Mother, father, children, son-in-law (bridegroom) shared this space. Everybody found his/her existence in this sphere which was typical to the Ottoman social life, and all of the needs were arranged appropriate to these demands. Except main room every room might become a bedroom. Hearth and bathing cubicle (closet- “şakadolabı”) were unforgettable details. Everybody dined together with the family. Worthy guests were hosted in the “main room” which was also used for events urging ceremony or ritual, for example feast receptions, when asking for a girl to marry or celebrating an activity important for the family. If there was a bride, she performed the duties, but the general process was under the control of the mother-in-law. One returned to daily tasks after the bed was made up and breakfast was made ready, and they were saying good bye to the “masters” (male members of the family). There were very few private baths in mansions, since people usually were bathing in public baths where ladies and men indeed visited public bath separately every week.
The third storey was arranged for the notable guests who came to stay at night. The storey was absolutely reserved for the guest. Therefore the store was furnished with objects revealing the wealth of the family. The most precious rugs, lamps, bedclothes and parlor suits were located in this store.
There are 534 registered mansions in Kastamonu still persevering its physical being, and in most of which people are still residing. In our opinion, it is not appropriate to call every building a “mansion.” For a Turkish house should be a splendid building accommodating a crowded family (together with second and third generations), possessing necessarily segments which seclude men and women, and showing this division in its architecture (such as separate entries of the two segments), so that it may deservedly be called a mansion. There were many mansions which suited this description, since Kastamonu had been a very important province of Ottoman Empire for centuries, and the city center of Kastamonu was the center of this administrative and economic structure. Some of these managed to survive until present times some of which are called with the names of rooted and large families, such as Keskinler Mansion, Uğurlu Mansion, and Oğuzlar Mansion. However, most of the historical wooden buildings still extant in Kastamonu, and aged 100-150 years, and decorated graciously are mid-sized or large “Kastamonu Houses.” Despite the fact that these buildings have preserved their architectural characteristics, the life within has adapted itself to changing life conditions, and then according to hygiene facilities and to the needs concerning heating, some necessary modifications have been realized within the building. The accelerated decay and the fact that their restorations are subjected to private permissions, and that these reparations are very expensive make the lives of the families living in these buildings harder, and accelerate the process of abandonment of the houses and the mansions. Today most of the historical houses and mansions are located in a region around the Citadel, and from the lower part of the Citadel it spreads towards the market just as a fan. Across Karaçomak Rivulet there are quarters of old houses extant. During the construction movement initiated in 60’s many mansions which created the historical shape of the city were destroyed, and instead high buildings of concrete were built which was justified by bringing “modernization.” Thanks to the awareness considering an understanding of protection developed in recent years and especially to the advance called “Historical Revival” initiated by the Governorship of Kastamonu six years ago many historical buildings have been registered and restored. Public functions are attributed to almost every building. Now what should be done is the initiation of a new advance by civil society to revive original buildings to obtain public functions such as dwellings, working places etc.
Since 1998 Kastamonu Governorship, having restored a number of historical mansions, by being faithful to their original condition, made it ready for various public services. Then again the restoration of the mansions could be actualized by “Vedat Tek Memory, Art and Restoration Center” which was established by the governorship. This exemplar establishment, first in Turkey, could realize the restoration of historical works perfectly thanks to its technical team and application workshops.
Recently, the successful restorations of historical buildings and mansions are gradually increasing, and the buildings obtain new functions thanks to the supports of Kastamonu Governorship, to the grants of Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, to credit supports of Housing Development Administration of Turkey and to increasing interests and efforts of private sector and civil society organizations as well.