Soho house, Istanbul


Waiters work in the kitchen of Soho House, Istanbul.

For more than a century, the grand Italianate mansion that served as an anchor of Istanbul’s European quarter was a beehive of American diplomacy and espionage. Spies toiled within and met their agents at the bar across the street, reporters dropped by for after-work drinks, and any Turk could walk in off the street to see the latest art exhibition or browse the library. And then, a dozen years ago, the party stopped and security walls enclosed the mansion, as the threat of terrorism sent American diplomats to a fortified hillside compound on the city’s outskirts, overlooking the Bosporus.

In the last few years the building has had a rebirth as an opulent clubhouse for Istanbul’s social elite. With a new luxury hotel beside it, the mansion, under a 51-year, roughly $25 million lease with the United States government, is the latest outpost of the private club empire Soho House. I covered this story for The New York Times.