Ihlamur Valley lying behind the district of Beşiktaş was a popular picnic place in the early l8th century, when the vineyards here belonged to Hacı Hüseyin Ağa, superintendent of the Naval Arsenal. Although this attractive spot became an imperial estate during the reign of Ahmed III (1703-1730), it continued to be known by this name until the mid l9th century. Abdülhamid I (1774-1789) and his son Selim III (1789-1807) frequently visited this park.
Ihlamur Pavilions were part of the ambitious building programme initiated by Sultan Abdülmecid (1839-1860), including Dolmabahçe Palace at Beşiktaş and Küçüksu Pavilion on the İstanbul Strait.
Before the royal lodges were constructed here Abdülmecid used to visit this pleasant wooded valley frequently. There was nothing in the park but a tiny plain building and here Lamartine was received by Sultan Abdülmecid in the mid l9th century. In his account of the occasion the famous French poet could not disguise his disappointment at the humble setting in which he met the Ottoman sovereign.
Lamartine would not have been disappointed by the two lodges which were built at Ihlamur shortly afterwards, however. Built by the architect Nikoğos Balyan between 1849 and 1855, they have been variously called the Nüzhetiye and Ihlamur Pavilions.
The most elaborate of the two, known as the Merasim Köşk, was reserved for the sultan’s own use. A curving baroque staircase frames the entrance and dense decoration swathes the façade. The interior decoration is typical of l9th century Ottoman architecture, highly westernised but eclectic, in keeping with the furnishings and fittings in various European styles.
The plainer and slightly smaller Maiyet Köşk was used by the sultan’s entourage or family members who accompanied him.
Sultan Abdülaziz (1861-1876) was not as fond of Ihlamur as his elder brother, and seems to have come here only to watch cock and ram fights in the garden. Sultan Mehmed V Reşad (1909- 1918) came here occasionally, and it was at Ihlamur that he received the kings of Bulgaria and Serbia.
The Ihlamur Pavilions were placed under the auspices of the National Palaces in 1966 as museum-palaces and are open to the public. There is a cafe in the Maiyet Köşk and part of the garden, and as at the other palaces and pavilions private receptions may be held here by arrangement. A newer building in the grounds which used to be accommodation for employees is now used to hold courses in painting, sculpture and drama mainly for children.