A prominent Sephardic Jewish family, the House of Camondo (or Kamondo), established themselves in the Galata district of Istanbul after Austrians took over Venice in 1798. A few years later, they founded their own bank branching into finance.
Abraham Salomon Camondo, brother of the bank’s founder, inherited the bank after his brother Isaac died in 1832. Until the Imperial Ottoman Bank was founded in 1863, he served the empire as its prime banker. He financially assisted Venice and aided in ts liberation from Austrian control. For these contributions, he was ennobled by King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy in 1870.
Abraham died three years later, but his two grandsons succeeded in expanding their banking business in Paris. The family did not survive World War II, as the last of its members were murdered in Auschwitz.
Their legacies can still be found in Istanbul, including their seaside mansion, which is currently used by the Turkish Navy. But the most notable, and perhaps most loved is the Camondo Stairs in Galata, which were built by Abraham Salomon Camondo during the 1870s.
Designed with a fusion of the Neo-Baroque and early Art Nouveau styles, this curvaceous, almost Gaudí-esque stairway was constructed as a shortcut for Camondo to reach Bankalar Caddesi (Banks Street), and for his children to go to school. Its hexagonal shape is believed to have been designed to prevent his children from falling further down the steps should they slip.