Kastamonu, established in the valley of Karaçomak Rivulet, and situated at the foothill of Ilgaz Mountain in West Black Sea Region, is an ancient settlement. Archeological excavations date the first settlement back to 50,000 B.C., to wit back to the Middle Paleolithic period. The first written sources of the region belong to Hittites. The documents of Hittites mention about peoples called Kaska (Gaska), Pala and Tumana in the region.
Kaskas, living in a narrow territory between mountains, were isolated from developed civilizations of the rest of Asia Minor, and as a savage group they were rebelling against Hittites, their southern neighbors, and were fighting against them. Then it seems plausible to talk about the presence of Gas people in the region in 1400-1200 B.C. It is not certain, though, the origins of the name of Kastamonu may be traced back to a combination of Gas (or Kas), and a province during the Hittite period called Tumana.
Phyrigians, bringing the Great Hittite Empire to an end in the 12th century B.C., dominated the whole region approximately 500 years long. In the sixth century B.C. Lydians, and their followers Persians, had dominated the territory. In the third century B.C. Pontus people who were a local dynasty in Asia Minor, established a strong state which included the historical region called Paphlagonia (West Black Sea region from Bolu to Sinop). Pontus people had challenged the Roman domination in 1st century B.C. which had begun to establish lately, and by supporting the rebellions frequently it had fought against the Roman commanders so that Pontus became a headache of Rome in Asia Minor.
The most famous motto “veni, vidi, vici” of Julius Caesar who had defeated the 6th Mithridates, the last representative of the dynasty, around Tokat was uttered here. From now on Paphlagonia was the soil of Rome. The center of the province with the same name was Pompeiopolis of present Taşköprü district. The city called Kastamonia during the period of East Roman or Byzantine Empire had been transmitted to Seldjuks as a result of the first Turkish raids at the end of the 11th century. Thereafter the city which was passed into hands of Byzantines, Danishmends and Seldjuks respectively, was dominated by Çobanoğulları in the 13th century, and then by Candaroğlu Principalities in the 14th and the 15th centuries.
Candaroğlu Principality known as Isfendiyaroğulları as well encompassed the entire Kastamonu, Sinop, Samsun, Çankırı and Zonguldak provinces, and some regions in Çorum and Bolu provinces. Though Yıldırım Bayezid put the region in 1392 under Ottoman rule, Timur who had defeated him in the Battle of Ankara passed on the region to the rule of Candaroğlu Principality. The last ruler of the dynasty Candaroğlu Ismail became the brother-in-law of Mehmed the Conqueror, by marrying the daughter of the Ottoman Sultan Murad II, and in 1461 he abjured the throne on behalf of the Ottomans. Candaroğlu Ismail was a great patron and scholar of Islamic law who had built many philanthropic institutions in and around Kastamonu. Kastamonu, while being affected by Celali rebellions in the 16th and the 17th centuries, remained as an important province of the Ottomans perpetually.
Kastamonu Society for the Defense of Rights and Kastamonu for the Defense of Rights of Women were established in the province which was not invaded during the War of Independence. The first and the greatest meetings were organized at the Nasrullah Square. The people of Kastamonu, which was the third province of the country of which the number of martyrs were highest, had participated in the War of Independence actively. The ammunition and munition coming from Russia were delivered by heroic women of Kastamonu to Ankara from the port of Inebolu. After the establishment of the Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who came to Kastamonu in 23 August 1925, realized the Hat and Clothing Reform in this province.
URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND PROTECTIONISM:
The fact that the province Kastamonu has an urban fabric completely shaped by Turks except for the rock tombs in the northern and southern edges, and except for the inner citadel protecting the contours belonging to the Byzantine era is what makes it interesting in regard to protectionism. It is possible to get some idea about the ancient city center, the wall gates and the main roads dating back to the 16th century, by examining the present urban fabric, the settlement of the old buildings and their chronology.
It is possible to claim that during the rule of Çobanoğulları the city might be circumscribed by a wall which extends up to the Kastamonu rivulet, and that this wall might be traced back to the city of Komnenoi (Byzantium). During the 14th century the city was still walled. It is possible to surmise that the road, which began from the Eligüzel Mosque, following the Atabey Street, and descended to the market place most probably preserved the contemporary geometrical condition, and might be the main road which was combined with the wall gates of the city. In the east the walls are approaching the Kastamonu Rivulet as their natural border. It may be surmised that there was a gate at this point or that a new gate was constructed.
The city wall was probably bending towards north from the Kastamonu rivulet, and was circumscribing the buildings of the 15th century and the market place. Today a remnant of a wall, which may be seen at the point where the Atabey Street ends, should have been a part of the walls, and it gives the impression of a wall pattern from Byzantium. The fact that the present name of the road, which approaches Ismail Bey Komplex, composing the northern border of the city, is Kale Kapısı Street (Wall Gate Street) may indicate that the center of the city was confined with a northern wall in this region. It is conjectured that the urban fabric leaped to the eastern shore of Kastamonu rivulet in the 15th century.
Besides around the walls, the city was enlarged a bit around some dervish lodges and mosques. In the north far from the city Ismail Bey Complex was constructed on a small summit as if having the role of fortification. The complex finished in 1451 is the most notable building of pre-Ottoman era. After Kastamonu was preoccupied by the Ottomans, a new bazaar was made in the market place during the governorship of Sultan Cem, and with the Nasrullah Mosque and Bath, and Balkapanı Inn, and their precedent Ismail Bey Inn, the center of the city has approached to its present condition. From the 13th century onwards the urban trade center began to be shaped probably between the point where the road enters the city, approaching from north and being adjoined to a significant part of the hinterland of the city, and the square where Nasrullah Mosque is located.
The buildings constructed in subsequent centuries, such as Acem Hanı (Persian Inn) and Urgan Inn concentrated the center. The center joined in south to Mahkemealtı Street and the subsequent streets. Nasrullah Bridge and the road entering the street were opening to the market place in front of the mosque. During the 16th century, the age of the second monumental construction, Ferhat Paşa Mosque of Sinan, and Sinan Bey Mosque, Yakup Ağa Complex with an interesting setting and elements, and many inn and public bath buildings were added to a number of monuments beginning with the buildings of Judge Nasrullah. It is inferred that the 17th century, whence Celali Rebellions penetrated entire Asia Minor, made no big changes in the city. However in the 18th century maybe after neglect of hundred years the city caught up with again, and some new mosques, inns, wooden madrasas were built.
It may be surmised that the urban population may have increased at that period. The borders of settlement were enlarged a little bit; new quarters had emerged between Ismail Bey Soup-Kitchen and the ancient walls, towards the summits at the eastern shore of the rivulet and towards north. The Christian population which may be encountered in the registers of the 19th century might be settled at that time. The city does not seem to surpass the borders of the 18th century until recently. During the administrative reforms of the second half of the 19th century, and at the beginning of the following century a new style emerged yielding in a new ambiance to the physiognomy of the city.
Especially a provincial classicist architectural style imported from Istanbul attracts attention. Similarly, museums and government buildings are special values as memories concerning transition to our era. These developments have brought about a change in the architectural dimension without ever changing the traditional fabric. Most of these buildings are located at the old trade center. Signs of a relatively rapid change and renewal may be perceived after the Second World War. In the line between the marketplace and the shore of the rivulet buildings of masonry or of concrete are replacing the older ones. Here the old fabric is destroyed. Within the borders of this general development Kastamonu preserved its historical structure to a certain degree.
The economical self-sufficiency and political significance it had gave an opportunity to develop more, and in contrast to many old centers of principalities the walls of Kastamonu seem to be influential in the preservation of the core of the ancient city. Even today the structural ordering and the roads of the quarters at the slope of the market place and the citadel have conserved their characteristics inherent to Middle Ages. This old order perfectly fits to the topography of the land. Buildings have made series with gardens in front and roads backwards, by creating a line across slope curves. Many times escalated roads, which unite the series of houses across roads of different altitudes, have emerged; original architectural solutions resulted in an interesting appearance in inner urban spaces.
The building type dominating the architecture of the old city of Kastamonu may be counted as a transitional product between Anatolian and Istanbulite house, which are multi-room houses of notables with three or four storeyes, although in some rich quarters in relation to an expression of a tendency probably emerged in late 19th century they also have characteristric houses the sub-storeyes which are exquisitely mute, and the upper storeyes of which have multiple windows facing the street. Differing in measure they create some pitoresque appearances, and perspectives of the internal parts of the city. In this respect the city of Kastamonu is a good example of the order of half-provincial town which is typical for an Anatolian-Turkish city, preserving its ties with nature, embracing the latter. A more concentrated order of building series predicating on a disorderly plan of the urban center in the last century has begun to change this old provincial sight. However, lately there are attempts to vivify the historical urban fabric with the restoration of exemplar buildings, and by adding new functions to them firstly thanks to the Governorship, and then to the initiatives of some sensitive civil groups. As to these attempts Kastamonu will most probably become a candidate with its museum-city sight equals to Safranbolu regarding the density of its historical buildings.