Historical Piers

Passenger transport between two sides of Istanbul was conducted with rowboats until the mid-19th century. The customers of rowboats called piyade, market boat, two double, three double were many in spring and autumn. Boatsmen were subject to the monopoly rules at this time. The number of boats was fixed in the monopolies. It couldn’t be one more or less. The boatsmen of each pier were from the locals, preferably from the same town and even the same village.

Some of the market boats were endowed. The leading statesmen and rich people of the era endowed one or two rowboats to piers that didn’t have many boats in their districts or other villages, and the revenues of these boats were used in charity.

Even in years when ferries appeared in Istanbul, the boatsmen continued their trade. There were no suitable piers in the villages of Bosphorus until 1840s. The captains would land to the dock of a deep enough seaside mansion along the coast, or waited far from shore for its customers. This situation led to various disasters. Paddle streamers were vulnerable against the currents and winds of the Bosphorus. The passenger who arrived with rowboats sometimes fell into the water while trying to embark on the waiting boat, and sometimes terribly died as they were squeezed in the boat’s paddles.

When Şirket-i Hayriye was established i 1851, many piers were constructed on the Bosphorus. Thus, the ferries could land on the piers safely and passengers could embark on them in a more healthy environment. Moreover, those who waited for the arrival of the ferry in the open or inside village coffee houses had access to piers in which heating stoves were fired and gas lamps were lit. 

Never in Istanbul’s history the number of piers fell under 100. However, as the landing vessels grew in size, so did the piers. Şirket-i Hayriye first built the Usküdar pier that became inadequate. Then new piers were built in other Bosphorus villages. 

The piers were first built with wood. They are almost the same as each other except for a few. The landing protrusions of the piers were also made of wood. Thick sticks were struck on the seabed with sledgehammers, and they were covered with thick lumber. In time, the waterlogged sticks decayed and dislocated when the ferries struck them. In that case, the sticks were removed and new ones were struck. A large floating barge was put before the piers where the seabed was so deep that sticks couldn’t be struck. Floating barges were also installed to piers that became shallow due to the sand carried by the currents. Some piers had women-only waiting rooms. As the women and men traveled separately in the boat, piers without separate rooms were divided with a thick curtain in their middle.

With the arrival of Şirket-i Hayriye, new piers were constructed in the Golden Horn, Bosphorus and the Prince Islands. The ticket office of these elegant, nestlike piers was sometimes outside the building. The newly built piers fetaured a relatively large waiting room in the middle, two rooms belonging to the pier officer and the technician, a small lunch counter inside, and a bathroom in the larger ones. 

Anadoluhisarı, Kanlıca, Çubuklu, Paşabahçe, Beykoz, Anadolu Kavağı and Poyrazköy piers continue to be small parts of the larger Istanbul narrative with their unique stories and sociable squares.

Historical Piers