Historic Homes of Iran: Windows to Persian Legacy
What you will read in this article:
- Location: Yazd Province, Abarkuh City, Darvazeh neighborhood, Abarghoo Square
- Date: Qajar Era (around 1878 AD)
- Current Status: Traditional Hotel
The beautiful and historical Aghazadeh house in the Darvazeh neighborhood of Abarkuh, a part of Yazd province, is a valuable relic from the Qajar period. The house’s two-story windcatcher is touted as the largest in Iran, depicted on the back of the 2,000 Rial banknote. The building was constructed around 1878 AD by a man named “Haj Hussein Abarghooi” on a 1,500-square-meter plot and was registered as a national historic site in February 1997.
Four other houses with similar architecture are near the Aghazadeh house: Hosseini Doust, Mousavi, Gabari, and Seyyed Ali Agha. The inhabitants of these houses, apparently relatives, used various methods like creating tunnels (Sabat) between the buildings for easier access to each other’s homes.
Like other desert-region houses in the country, Aghazadeh’s home is constructed from mud, clay, and bricks, balancing the hot environment. The two-story structure spans 820 square meters, featuring five-door and three-door rooms adorned with arched windows, colorful glasses, and ornate stucco work with floral and arabesque patterns. The five-door rooms were used as the main rooms, while the three-door ones (situated on both sides of the five-door rooms) were used as bedrooms.
Moreover, the dome and windcatcher of the house, visible on the main hall’s roof, play a significant role in both aesthetics and providing light and coolness. The decorative artwork beneath the dome and the eight windows with colored glasses further accentuate the building’s beauty.
The towering two-story windcatcher of the Aghazadeh mansion is recognized as the largest in Iran and has global acclaim. The windcatcher towers over the main hall and is visible from almost all parts of the city. This four-sided structure can capture wind from any direction, and even if there’s no wind, its design ensures proper ventilation. Its windows can be closed during winters or strong winds to prevent cold drafts and dust infiltration.
The Aghazadeh mansion in Yazd has been transformed into a traditional hotel with 16 rooms and a restaurant that can accommodate around 100 guests. Visiting this historical home is possible daily from 8 AM to 9 PM, provided one has an entry ticket.
- Address: Alavi Street, Sultan Amir Ahmad Alley, Kashan City, Isfahan Province
- Age: Qajar Era (circa 1894 AD)
- Current Status: Historical Attraction
The Tabatabaei House is among the most beautiful examples of Iranian architecture, built in the 13th Hijri Shamsi century by a man named “Seyyed Jafar Tabatabaei,” a famous merchant from Natanz. The master architect of this masterpiece is introduced as “Ali Maryam Kashani,” who constructed the house over a decade. “Mirza Abolhassan Sani’ol Molk Ghaffari Kashani” students also executed the house’s plasterwork and paintings, drawing inspiration from Iranian carpet patterns and Islamic floral and avian motifs.
The house is designed in the style of the Qajar era and has three main sections: interior, exterior, and servant quarters. In this architectural style, the courtyard is at the center of the house, surrounded by rooms. This house has five entrance doors, one of which is the main entrance. After passing through this entrance and descending 20 steps, you’ll arrive at the central courtyard (exterior courtyard), the royal sitting room, and the mirrored portico.
The royal sitting room, the venue for hosting parties and ceremonies during the Qajar period, is beautifully situated in the middle of the house’s exterior portion. Facing it is the mirrored portico, showcasing its captivating plasterwork and mirror decorations. Two quiet and light-filled courtyards are symmetrically located on either side of the main hall, with two large rectangular ponds in the exterior courtyard, surrounded by six octagonal gardens.
The five-door room is in the center of the house’s interior, with two courtyards designed on either side. The northwest side of this section also accommodates an enormous yard and other rooms. The servants’ rooms, kitchen, stables, and basement quarters are other parts of the Tabatabaei mansion.
The Tabatabaei mansion was registered as a national monument of Iran in February 1997.
- Address: Isfahan Province, City of Isfahan, Sheshahan Neighborhood, Behind the Atiq Mosque
- Age: Safavid Era (during the reign of Shah Abbas I, between the years 967-1007 AH)
- Current Status: Private property
In the historical fabric of the city, west of the Jameh Mosque of Isfahan, there lies a house often referred to as the “most beautiful historical house in Asia and Oceania.” This house is attributed to “Sheikh Baha’i,” a renowned scholar of the Safavid era. Its age is often associated with the time of Shah Abbas I of the Safavids. Some sources suggest that the initial structure dates back to the Seljuk era – since this part of Isfahan’s historical fabric is known as the Seljuk fabric. Moreover, according to some archaeologists, this house was built upon the remnants of a village that predates Islam.
Dr. Nasrallah Falsafi, in his book “Life of Shah Abbas I,” notes that Shah Abbas’s aunt, “Maryam Sultan Begum,” was the original owner of this mansion. The Safavid king later bequeathed it to Sheikh Baha’i, who at the time held the position of Sheikh-ul-Islam in the Safavid capital. Sheikh Baha’i spent half of his life in this house. In 1375 SH (Solar Hijri), this monument was registered as a cultural and historical site in Iran’s national heritage list.
Like other contemporary structures, the Sheikh Baha’i House in Isfahan includes:
- Internal and external spaces
- A courtyard with a turquoise pool
- A mirror hall
- A five-door room
- And other common architectural elements of Iran’s desert regions
Decoration and Influence:
Specific decorations such as Muqarnas (honeycomb-like decoration), plasterwork, and mirrorwork embellish the house’s interior. Some believe that the Sheikh Baha’i House, leaning on Islamic Iranian architecture that peaked during the Safavid era, was a model for other historical places in Isfahan. Furthermore, based on existing findings, this house possibly connects to the Sheikh Baha’i bathhouse.
In the early 70s SH, a person named “Abdolazim Jalali Farahani,” who had come to Isfahan from Germany, purchased the Sheikh Baha’i House. At that time, the house had deteriorated into ruins. Mr. Jalali, with his wife “Ashraf Jalali,” restored the grandeur of a historical aristocratic place to the Sheikh Baha’i mansion over three years. He passed away in 1391 SH and never agreed to put the historic site, which he had chosen as his residence, under the care of the Cultural Heritage Organization.
- Address: Khorasan Razavi Province, City of Mashhad, Nowab Safavi Street, Right of Hoz-e Mesgaran, Darougheh Alley
- Age: Late Qajar Era (around 1921 AD)
- Current Status: Museum
Darougheh House is one of the attractive Qajar buildings in Mashhad. It belonged to the city’s last Darougheh (governor) during the final years of the Qajar period, hence the name “Darougheh House.” This magnificent house was constructed by the order of “Yusuf Khan Herati,” the first chief of Nezamieh after the Constitutional Revolution, and was built by Russian architects. The house remained with his heirs until 1981.
After being sold to representatives of one of the councils of the Shahidieh village in Meybod, the historical building was used for religious ceremonies for many years. Ultimately, as part of the renovation and development plan of Mashhad City, Darougheh House was purchased in 2012 by the municipality in collaboration with the Thames Construction Company. With an emphasis on preserving its structural and visual identity, the house underwent restoration and was reopened in 2015.
Built in the typical style of historic Iranian houses and inspired by Russian architectural designs, the Darougheh House is constructed on an area of 1,100 square meters. The home is located about 75 centimeters below the street level. It features a beautiful pond and two small gardens in the central courtyard and is divided into sections for summer and winter living.
The construction of the first private bathroom and the first fireplace took place in the Darougheh House. At a time when people frequented public baths, the first private bath was built in this house, and the first fireplace was also constructed in this space. Other house features include a two-story dedicated bakery, wind catcher rooms, a traditional pond, a kitchen, and a basement.
National Heritage Status:
Darougheh House, Mashhad, was registered in the national heritage list of Iran in October 2002. It is open for visits every day except holidays from 8 AM to 2 PM and 4 PM to 7 PM, with tickets available for purchase.
- Address: Qom Province, Qom City, 19 Dey (Bajak) Street, end of alley 11, number 15
- Age: Late Qajar era and early Pahlavi period (around 1921 AD)
- Current Status: Handicrafts museum and traditional restaurant
Located in “Bagh-e Panbeh,” one of the oldest neighborhoods in Qom City, near the grand Timcheh and Qom market, one can find a historic and beautiful house. Having been transformed into a traditional restaurant, it welcomes numerous guests. Guests who are deeply fascinated by the history and culture of this land sometimes wish to escape from the bustling world outside and spend some moments in the ancient and authentic fabric of the city and a house reminiscent of the past.
The Yazdanpanah house dates back to the late Qajar era and the early days of the first Pahlavi period. The home features a beautiful turquoise pond, tall brick walls, and wooden doors and windows. It’s built on a 1,000-square-meter plot, spanning two levels (basement and upper floor).
Notable features of the house include:
- A water reservoir that was directly filled with water from the qanat.
- A windcatcher was used to cool the basement during summer.
- The corridors of the house, known as “Daalan,” were designed in a winding manner to ensure the residents’ privacy, preventing outsiders from peering into the mansion.
Yazdanpanah house is introduced as a four-season house. Like other traditional Iranian houses, orientation has been considered in its architecture. For example, the house’s winter quarters were in the courtyard’s northern rooms, where the sun tilts during winter. The large arch designs of these rooms were intended for the maximum entry of sunlight, and the shorter height of the rooms accelerated the warming of this space.
In this house, like other homes in the warm and dry climate, rooms are arranged around the courtyard in a nested manner. Besides being independent, they are interconnected with wooden doors. Currently, a part of the approximately 100-year-old Yazdanpanah house has been allocated to a handicrafts museum, while other spaces in this beautiful ancient house have been converted into a traditional restaurant.
- Address: Fars Province, Shiraz City, Lotfali Khan Zand Street, Goodarabha Neighborhood, Western side of Narenjestan Ghavam Garden
- Date of Origin: Qajar era (between the years 1872-1884 AD)
- Current Status: Fars History Museum
Zinat ol Molk House is among Shiraz’s most famous and beautiful historic houses. It is a relic from the Qajar era, considered an internal part of Narenjestan Ghavam and connected to it through an underground corridor. The construction of this house began around 1872 AD by Mohammad Khan Qavamolmolk II (grandson of Haj Ebrahim Khan Kalantar Etemadoldoleh Shirazi). It continued for 12 years, eventually completed by “Mohammad Reza Khan Qavamolmolk III.” It’s said that a benevolent lady named “Zinatolmolk Ghavami,” the daughter of Qavamolmolk IV (Habibollah Khan Qavam) and wife of Forougholmolk, resided in this house and hosted the needy of the city with charitable meals. After her, the house was handed over to “Abdullah Ghavami,” later, when new owners purchased it, its use was changed to a museum.
The architecture of Zinat ol Molk House is a brilliant example of traditional Iranian architecture, occasionally influenced by European art. In some rooms, paintings of European women and children can be observed. The house is built on a 3,300 square meter area of 20 interconnected rooms. Passing through the house’s central hall, one will arrive at a beautifully designed courtyard adorned with two lovely gardens.
The house’s main hall or central pavilion, which faces the entrance and is located in the west, with its mirror work, wall paintings, and large arched windows, is considered the most attractive part of the building. It captivates the eyes of visitors. Rooms with five doors on both sides, decorated with arches and plastered porches, complement the splendor and beauty of this traditional space. There’s also a large rectangular pool in front of the western building, adding magnificence to the exterior of this Qajar-era royal mansion.
Zinat ol Molk’s historic house suffered considerable damage after the revolution, especially during the war when it became a safe refuge for people. In 1994 AD, the Parsology Foundation, with the help of the Cultural Heritage Organization, undertook the repair and restoration of this valuable monument. The basement of this mansion was utilized as an art gallery a year later and became a venue for displaying the works of both local and international artists. Now, a museum of celebrities from Fars Province is situated here, famously known as the Madame Tussauds of Shiraz, housing wax statues of famous figures from Iran.
Zinat ol Molk House was registered as a national monument in December 1975 AD. Visiting this house and its celebrity museum is possible daily except on holidays and mourning days, from 8 AM to 7 PM, with a ticket purchase.
- Address: East Azerbaijan Province, Tabriz City, Clock Square, Maqsoodieh Neighborhood
- History: Late Zand Dynasty and early Qajar period (around 1788 AD)
- Current Status: Part of the Urban Architecture Faculty of Tabriz University
The Behnam House, also known as Behnam Ganjehi or Qadaki, is among the most renowned historical houses in Tabriz. It was built during the late Zand era and the early Qajar period, covering an approximate area of 1,900 square meters. This structure underwent renovation during the Naseri era, where it was adorned with paintings.
The house consists of two inner and outer courtyards and two buildings for summer and winter use, respectively. The summer terrace features tall columns, ornately decorated gypsum capitals, arched windows, stained glasses, exquisite plaster carvings, and beautiful paintings. During recent restorations of the building, several Iranian fresco paintings were discovered, which experts are now working on restoring.
The house’s basement had a summer sitting area and a small pool, providing a fantastic retreat from the summer heat for the inhabitants. The kitchen and storage areas were also located around this section.
For a long time, the Behnam House remained uninhabited. It is now considered a part of the Urban Architecture Faculty of Tabriz University. This invaluable historical monument was registered on Iran’s National Monuments list in Farvardin 1376 (March/April 1997). Due to its academic use, visits to Behnam House in Tabriz are possible only on holidays from 10 AM to 2 PM upon purchasing an entry ticket.
- Address: Semnan Province, Semnan City, Taleghani Street
- History: Qajar period (Reign of Fath-Ali Shah, between 1799 to 1795 AD)
- Current Status: Building of the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism of Semnan
Tadayon House, also known as Mohammadiyeh House, is a prominent and valuable construction from the Qajar era, located in the Abbasiyeh neighborhood of Semnan. It serves as a fine example of traditional Iranian architecture. The house once belonged to a man named Mr. Mohammadiyeh, the son-in-law of “Mirza Abdollah Tadayon,” a well-known merchant in Semnan, and thus gained its name.
Some attribute the house’s age to the reign of Fath-Ali Shah Qajar. Based on existing evidence, photographs taken by Mirza Abdollah Qajar during Naser al-Din Shah’s trip to Mashhad and his stopover in Semnan in 1867 AD depict the historic Tadayon House.
Tadayon House has three entrances, leading to three sections: internal, external, and services. The inner courtyard, like many other traditional Iranian houses, was meant for the residence of the household, while the outer courtyard was designated for guest receptions and the owner’s office.
The inner house comprises areas for winter (northern section), summer (southern province), and spring sleeping (western and eastern sections). Two large rooms, a pantry, and a basement with beautiful arched ceilings made of stone and brick constitute the external section of the Tadayon House. Beautiful wooden ceilings in the ground floor rooms and vaulted ceilings with brick decorations in the basement are particularly eye-catching.
Areas designated for the servants’ accommodation, stables, kitchen, wood storage, and similar facilities are found in the services section, connected to the inner courtyard via a corridor. The windcatcher and the stone pool of Tadayon House (located in the yard) are considered two unique features of the Mohammadiyeh structure. In addition to regulating the house’s temperature during summer, the tall windcatcher dramatically enhances the traditional architectural splendor of the Tadayon House.
The exquisite Tadayon mansion underwent restoration in 1994 AD, and its usage was changed. Currently, Tadayon House in Semnan serves as the Directorate of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism for Semnan and the city’s Handicrafts House. This historic monument was registered on Iran’s National Monuments list in 1996 AD.
- Address: Golestan Province, Gorgan City, Imam Khomeini Street, Laleh 11
- Date of Construction: Late Qajar period (around 1921 AD)
- Current Use: Gorgan Handicrafts Museum
Located near the “Bazaar of Farriers” and behind the Jāmeh Mosque of Gorgan, a 1,000 square meter structure showcasing traditional architecture stands proud. This tower, constructed from wood, brick, clay, and soon plaster, captivates visitors with its stunning Qajar-era architecture. It’s said that this historically significant building was constructed by Gorgan’s last ruler, “Mehdi Khan Malek,” also known as “Mehdi Khan Sa’ed Lashkar.” Besides being his residence, the building also housed the local gendarmerie. The basement was used as a detention facility. Later, the building’s purpose shifted and became known as the “Rashidiye School.” Subsequently, the house was passed to “Seyyed Abolghasem Amir Latifi,” a son-in-law of the Malek family, a founder of modern culture in Gorgan, and one of the city’s theatre pioneers, thus earning the name Amir Latifi House.
The main entrance is located on the eastern side. A short, narrow corridor leads to a rectangular courtyard adorned with a pool and garden, a common feature in many old Iranian houses. At first glance, the wooden arch-shaped windows, wooden steps leading to the porch, and shirvani ceilings, specific to northern Iranian homes, draw attention. Noteworthy architectural features include the harmony of form, symmetry, efficient use of materials, and an architectural style that suits the local climate.
Amir Latifi House consists of a two-story building in the north and two one-story buildings on the east and west sides. Three interconnected rooms can be observed on the northern section’s first floor. Side rooms are connected by stairs to the upper floor, comprising a central five-door room flanked by two three-door rooms.
Today, the historic Amir Latifi House has been repurposed as the Gorgan Handicrafts Museum. On the first floor, various handicrafts from villages and cities of the Golestan Province are on display. The second floor showcases spinning wheels, clothes, jewelry, utensils from the Qajar era, and sculptures representing traditional occupations of Golestan Province, such as coppersmithing, spinning, weaving, cotton ginning, blacksmithing, woodturning, carpet weaving, and mat weaving.
Amir Latifi Mansion in Gorgan was registered on Iran’s National Heritage list in 1999 AD and was transformed into the Gorgan Handicrafts Museum about 11 years later. The museum and Amir Latifi House are open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM, with an entrance fee applicable.
- Location: Central Province, Arak City, beyond the Chaharsouq market, opposite the entrance of Sepahdari School.
- Age: Ahmad Shah Qajar era (between 1914 and 1926 AD).
- Current status: Handicraft Museum and Traditional Café-Restaurant.
The Hassanpour House stands as a valuable historical edifice in Arak. It’s situated within the ancient fabric of the city, specifically on the first lane on the left after the Chaharsouq market of Arak (opposite the Sepahdari School). This monument is a relic from the late Qajar era, reflecting the age of Ahmad Shah. Various traditional Iranian architectural details can be observed throughout the building.
The house was commissioned by “Haj Ali Moshiri,” one of the carpet merchants in Arak, to establish a carpet company. Following Mr. Moshiri’s death and a change in its utilization, the building served as the “Majidi School.” After several generations, ownership was transferred to “Javad Hassanpour,” giving it a residential function. Henceforth, it’s been recognized as the Hassanpour House. The house was nationally registered and celebrated as a historical artifact in Farvardin (March/April) of 1377 SH (1998 AD).
Some believe the construction of Hassanpour House occurred in two separate phases: the southern wing during Ahmad Shah Qajar’s reign and the northern wing in the following years (possibly early 1950s AD). In the year 1347 SH (1968 AD), the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage purchased the house from Mr. Hassanpour’s heirs, subsequently undertaking its renovation.
By Farvardin 1377 SH (1998 AD), the Hassanpour mansion was listed in Iran’s national heritage. Then, by Khordad (May/June) of 1382 SH (2003 AD), it began functioning as the Museum of Handicrafts and Traditional Arts for the Central Province. The ground floor has recently been transformed into a traditional dining space.
The introverted architecture of the Hassanpour House includes a central courtyard adorned with a turquoise pond and rooms surrounding the yard from the east, west, and north. The entire structure stands on a 600 square meter plot and spans two levels: the ground floor dedicated to winter rooms, kitchen, and pantry, and the upper floor reserved for the Shah’s sitting room and summer chambers.
The brickwork facade and exquisite tilework constitute the primary decorations of this house. Visits to the Hassanpour House Museum are available daily except Tuesdays, from 8 AM to 8 PM.