Sursock House

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Sursock House (also known as Palais Sursock) is a grand palace located on Rue Sursock in the city of Beirut in Lebanon. The palace, which was built in the 1850s by Moïse Sursock,[1] is owned by Lady Cochrane Sursock, an advocate of preserving historic buildings in Lebanon.[2]

Sursock House, a symbol of the Sursock family's rich history, is located in the historic Rue Sursock, in the Achrafieh district of Beirut. The palace faces the Nicolas Sursock Museum, a 19th-century building that was bequeathed to the city of Beirut in 1961. The Sursock House is surrounded by gardens that can be hired for special events such as weddings.[3]

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Originally built in the 1860s, Sursock Palace is now the residence of its original owner’s granddaughter, Lady Cochrane, who inherited it at the age of two. Of all the Sursock residences, it is the largest and the only one to retain its pristine glory, due to the renovation efforts of the family.

The house, designed as one large rectangular structure, was built by master builders in the traditional Lebanese style of architecture, according to Giorgio Tarraf of the Save Beirut Heritage foundation. A double flight of white marble stairs leads to the main entrance on the south façade. After passing though the grand doors ,there is an uninterrupted view of the entire 35-meter length of the great hall.

The doors that open into the grand salon and dining room (along with the entrance) are from the XVII century and were brought from Naples. On the south side of the door leading to the dining room, the walls are lined with collections of Italian paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries originally housed in the Palazzo Serra di Cassano in Naples, the home of Lady Cochrane’s maternal grandfather, the Duke of Cassano.

The library is Lady Cochrane’s private sitting room and is paneled in mahogany. It features a large portrait of Madame Isabelle Bustros (born Sursock) by French painter Bordes . Madame Bustros was the aunt of Lady Cochrane and having no children of her own, adopted her niece. She died in 1958 at 96 having exercised great influence not only within the Sursock family, but also socially and politically within Lebanon.

In the garden, the visitors’ kiosk is even older than the main house and was converted into Turkish baths when the house was built in 1860. It was later converted into guest rooms.

Lady Cochrane expresses sadness at the lack of importance placed on Beirut’s heritage buildings, among an environment of fast-paced construction and development. She believes high-rise apartment buildings are destroying the city’s identity. “There used to be many more beautiful houses in this area, so many have disappeared. It’s terrible,” Lady Cochrane says looking out from the grand salon of her house onto beautiful grounds. Vast gardens which once filled the Sursock area have long disappeared and the Sursock Palace grounds is one of the few, of significant size, that remains across the whole of Beirut, after landowners sold their houses and gardens for speculative building.

Back in 1960, Lady Cochrane co-founded The Association for Protecting Natural Sites and Old Buildings (APSAD) (apsadonline.com). The association has helped to restore and save numerous heritage buildings over the years, from the restoration of the façade of Jounieh’s Town Hall in 2003 to the rehabilitation of the Jounieh Souk in 2001. Having seen the city change around her, Lady Cochrane is cynical for the future, “Everything is being destroyed right, left and center. We’re not having much success in the protection of heritage in Lebanon. Beirut 1,000 times dead, 1,000 times resuscitated,” she sighs. [1]

  1. ^ Lebanon Traveler http://www.lebanontraveler.com/en/magazine/Lebanon-Traveler-Palace-walk. Retrieved 24 October 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)