Rowhouses emerged as a housing typology in Istanbul towards the second half of the 19th century, following the emergence of the petite and middle bourgeoisie in Ottoman society. Their location and architectural characteristics reflect the needs and the life styles of this new class comprising of merchants, tradesmen, artisans and small and middle bureocrats of mostly Christian (Greek and Armenian) and Jewish background. Rowhouses were built mostly in the neighborhoods of Fener, Balat, Kumkapi, Gedikpasa, Ortaköy, Moda, Kadiköy and Yeldegirmeni (Rasim Pasa) where minorities lived.
While being imported from Europe, rowhouses in Istanbul have developed their own unique character by adapting to local urban and architectural conditions. Rowhouses in Istanbul feature elements of the vernacular, such as baywindow (cumba) or a roof terrace (tahtabos) on their façades. Their scale and elevations are specific to the context of a particular neighborhood. Unlike their European counterparts, they were designed and built without front gardens to fit the existing street and lot texture. They differ from the vernacular, however, in the repetition of their facades as well as in the organization of spaces inside the house. The plan of the rowhouse follows the logic of a showcase front on the street side where all services and private rooms are located on the unadorned back side. This strong duality is foreign to the traditional Ottoman house where the hierarchy of spaces occurs vertically rather than horizontally.
With the advent of modern apartments in the twentieth century and due also to the flight of religious minorities, rowhouses were left to use by lower-income citizens or squatter settlers. Today, rowhouses are being restored in a new economy that privileges their use as higher-income residences or commercial purposes.