Dig around the midden of French-Turkish relations over the centuries, and you find the French establishing a warm trading fraternity early in the Ottoman dynasty. Four centuries of trade and cultural exchange ended with the expulsion of all French persons from Turkey. That exodus was completed on September 18, 1922 …
Wikipedia has the following about San Stefano, a waterfront resort near present-day Ataturk Airport. Seems Istanbul had an enclave of French expatriates among the so-called Levantines :Yeşilköy … is a [mahalle (neighbourhood)] in the district of Bakırköy, Istanbul, Turkey. It is located along the Marmara Sea about 11 kilometres (7 miles) west of Istanbul’s historic city centre. … Prior to 1926 known as San Stefano or Santo Stefano from the Greek: Άγιος Στέφανος pronounced Aghios Stefanos, rendered in Turkish as Ayastefanos … meaning Saint Stephen … In the 19th century, the whole village was owned by the powerful Armenian Dadyan family, which received it as a gift from the Ottoman Sultan. During the Crimean War, the French forces were stationed here, and built one of the three historic lighthouses of Istanbul still in use. Yeşilköy is … where the Russian forces stopped at the end of the war of 1877-1878 and … where the Treaty of San Stefano was signed between Russian and Ottoman Empire. In 1909, the decision to send Sultan Abdülhamid II in exile to Thessaloniki was taken by the members of the Committee of Union and Progress at the Yacht club of Yeşilköy. … The first military aviation base [in Turkey(?)] was established in Yeşilköy in 1909-1911. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Yeşilköy was a favourite coastal resort and hunting place for Istanbul’s upper class, and had a mixed population, made of Turks, Greeks, (now almost completely emigrated), Armenians (who still live there in numbers) and Levantines (Italian and French people of Istanbul – now almost completely emigrated). … In 1926 the village was named Yeşilköy which means “Green Village.”
Cites as source Ayastefanos’tan Yeşilköy’e by Turgay Tuna, 2004.
The term Levantine turns out to have pedigree. French merchants enjoyed longstanding relations with the Ottomans:The modern Levant was a product of one of the most successful alliances in history, for three and a half centuries after 1535, between France and the Ottoman empire, between the Caliph of the Muslims and the Most Christian King. It was based on the shared hostility of the two monarchies to Spain and the House of Austria, but soon acquired commercial and cultural momentum. Frenchmen called the Levant “our Indies”. Provence lived off the Levant trade.
“The Future Belongs to the Open Cities: We Are All Levantines Now” by Philip Mansel. counterpunch.org. April 13, 2012.
At the Paris Peace Conference the Allied nations fought over who got what parts of the Ottoman Empire. France enlisted the support of Armenia in its claim to “part of southeastern Anatolia” as per the secret England-France Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 8, 1916. Here’s the map, courtesy of Wikimedia:
Then, in the Franco-Turkish War (1919-1921), Mustafa Kemal Pasha (Ataturk) and the Turks booted the foreign forces out and established the Republic of Turkey. The expulsion of the occupying forces was completed by September 18, 1922.
A substantial website of Levantine Heritage has a great collection of visuals (vintage postcards, etc) of Beyoglu or Péra, as it was known then, including this of İstiklâl Caddesi where Yeniçarşı Caddesi crosses — the location is given by the high gates and wall (to right), which still shutter the substantial greenspace of what is now a secondary school.
Beyoglu was the Levantine centre in Istanbul, and İstiklâl was its main drag. Before 1924 it was generally called La Grande Rue de Péra. İstiklâl means “independence.”
Looking southwest along Istiklal, then and now:
Beyoglu still has quite a European feel — witness the continuing presence of Sent Antuan (St. Anthony’s) Roman Catholic Church on İstiklâl Caddesi:
Historians have generated enough scholarship about the Levantines to stage a conference in Istanbul in November 2014 (info on the website above).