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An aromatic piece of history lives on on island of Corfu

NIKOS VATOPOULOS

A genuine relic of the industrial zone stands amid apartment blocks in the heart of the old manufacturing district of Corfu. The historic Patounis soap factory, which had great success in the past, continues to operate in a building that was constructed in 1891. It has been listed for preservation by the Culture Ministry. On Corfu the name Patounis is associated with a business that may have started out on Zakynthos as Bazakis & Patounis, but which became known as a signature Corfu brand. The site, which retains nearly all its equipment, retains the aroma of soap. In the entrance is a cylindrical forged metal support with an embossed inscription, manufactured at the Vassileiadis machine shop, the largest establishment of its kind in 19th century Greece. The information comes from the Greek branch of the International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCHI), which describes the Patounis soap factory as «an interesting architectural example of a 19th century store and factory.» A report by the Modern and Contemporary Architectural Heritage Directorate notes the value of the building and its unique equipment as a self-contained microcosm which, over the years and through additions made to it (such as the chemical laboratory built in 1940), was linked not only with the industrial history of Corfu but also with the memories of the island's people. Living witnesses recall the progress of the soap factory, its professional ambitions, networks throughout Greece, and the people who worked for the firm. What makes it unique, according to all the reports, including one by the Ioannina Ephorate of Modern Monuments, is its continuous operation using traditional methods. The cauldrons for boiling soap, stone troughs, old scales, pumps, paddles and portable molds have all survived, along with many other objects and architectural elements. The factory attracts many visitors, papers have been written about it, a Paris museum made a documentary about it in 2004 («Bulle d'olive - La fabrique savon Patounis, Corfou, Grece»), and the Ionian University and the Hellenic Society support the idea of spotlighting the factory. The historic soap factory is in the Avramiou area of Corfu, between I. Theotoki (formerly Avramiou) and Yerasimou streets.

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