Built in the 1860’s for Moussa Sursock, the Palais Sursock is now the residence of its original owner’s Grand-daughter Lady Yvonne Cochrane Sursock who inherited it at the age of two years old. Of all the Sursock houses, it is the largest.
Its second owner was Alfred Bey Sursock (the father of Lady Cochrane) who not only increased the size of the gardens, but improved on the collections pf pictures, carpets and other objets d’art which are amongst the best in the Middle East.
The Sursock’s origin goes back to Constantinople and they have been recorded as living in Beirut since 1714. Their great wealth was made in the early 19th century primarly in agriculture (wheat and cotton) and later in manufacturing (cotton mills). At its hight, the Sursock empire extended from Mersine, Turkey to Alexandria, Egypt passing by Lebanon, Cyprus and Palestine. With the advent of nationalist regimes in Turkey & Egypt and the creation of the state of Israel, the Sursocks lost both their lands and manufacturing facilities and the palace in Beirut is one of the few remaining symbols of their former glory.
The Upstairs Hall contains a fine Flemish Tapestry of the 17th century depicting “Time cutting the wings of Cupid and sacred Love repelling profane Love”. The gilt figures of boys holding candelabras are Venitian XVIII century and are part of a set of which the others are in the house of the late Desmond Cochrane in Ireland which now belongs to his eldest son Sir Marc Cochrane. There is also a portrait of Lady Cochrane by the English painter Sutter Robertson. Here also is a fine picture by Stomer depicting Muzio Scevola. In the South East corner is a small room recently arranged by Lady Cochrane as a small intimate dining room. This room was very badly damaged during the fighting but has been restored and fitted with 18th century paneling saved just in time from the wreckage of the Sursock house in Sofar.
The Library is the private sitting-room of Lady Cochrane and is paneled in mahogany. The large portrait is of Madame Isabelle Sursock and is by the French painter Bordes. Madame Sursock was the aunt of Lady Cochrane and having no children of her own, adopted her niece who had been left fatherless at the age of 2. She died in 1958 at the age 96 having exercised very great influence not only in the Sursock Family of which she was the Doyenne but also socially and politically in Lebanon.
A double flight of white marble steps leads to the main entrance in the south façade, and on entering the house one has an uninterrupted vista through the whole length of the Great Hall (35 meters) ending in a view of Cypress tree and the Mediterranean beyond. In the first entrance hall there is a pair of XVII century Flemish (Brussels) tapestries of which one depicts Cleopatra in a boat on the Nile with Apollodorus and the other shows Marc Anthony swimming in the sea after the naval battle of Alexandria. A third tapestry of this same series was in the possession of the Princess Chevikar of Egypt, the first wife of King Fuad.
In the central part of the Great Hall with its four sets of triple Lebanese arches supported by elegant fluted marble pillars the ceiling is of interest being a good example of a Lebanese ceiling executed in plaster. The painted furniture in this part of the hall was designed for the house when it was built and its decoration is copied from the ceiling.