CULTURE

Old Athens disappearing before 2004

One of the very few remaining villas of old Athens, a well-known corner hard by the Ippocrateio Hospital, saw demolition begin this week, despite once having been listed for preservation. A well-known corner of Athens, the romantic old building used to be known as the residence of Angelos Pyrris, and is located in an area which was still countryside when the house was built. Demolition crews began tearing down the roof of the old villa this Wednesday. Until recently listed for preservation, the building is seeing its last days in its original form. An emblem of the Ambelokipi area, the Pyrris residence was built around 1890 in old-style pinkish stone with a double-gabled roof. Similar houses were built around 1900 in Neo Faliron and Kifissia. The house is scheduled for near-total demolition, though the facade will be saved and incorporated into a multistory building that is to take up the entire garden, which once formed an integral part of this historic house. Such is the fate which the Culture Ministry’s feeble preservation policy has in store for the few remaining houses of this type. The State seems unwilling to formulate and implement an overall plan for the few surviving urban oases that are a reminder of how life used to be in this city in decades past. Cases are examined individually, and in what are disappointingly common and somewhat suspect decisions, it usually lifts the preservation order. Kathimerini has received complaints from Athenians about this particular house, an islet of beauty which, in amazement, they are watching being destroyed. Culture Ministry policy treats recent monuments (such as the Ziller mansion at 6 Mavromichalis Street) with similar contempt. Sources say a private owner has offered to buy the property on Angelos Pyrris Square, save the house and turn it into a museum. A businessman with many interests, Pyrris was an important figure in his time. Is there still enough time to save this beautiful corner of Athens?