The industrial heritage of Nea Ionia is under threat

One of the oldest and most historic industrial complexes in Nea Ionia, the Eastern Carpet Factory – later the Greek Silk Factory – is in danger of demolition. The Central Archaeological Council of Modern Monuments was to meet late yesterday evening to decide whether the factory should be listed for preservation as a historic monument. The Eastern Carpet Factory, built on a 150-square-meter plot of land in the refugee settlement, is linked to the carpet-making tradition of the Greeks from Asia Minor who came to Greece after 1922 and to the development of carpet making in Nea Ionia, Perissos and other northern suburbs of Athens between the wars. Many voices have been raised in support of preserving the factory as a whole. Architects Olga Traganou-Deliyianni, president of the Greek branch of the International Committee for the Conservation of Industrial Heritage (TICCIH), Olga Voyiatzoglou and Eleni Maistro, two of the four authors of «The Industrial Heritage of Nea Ionia» (pub. ETBA), have written an expert opinion. The Hellenic Society has also expressed support, as have industrial heritage specialists such as architect Nikos Bellavillas. Efforts to save the ensemble of buildings focus on the site’s great historical value. Nea Ionia was designated as a carpet-making center by the Refugee Rehabilitation Commission and as an industrial zone where blocks of land were given to the refugees for industrial pursuits. The factory dates back to that era and now includes buildings from many different phases. The most interesting part, in terms of structure, is the weaving mill, the largest building, with its characteristic asymmetrical slanting roofs and skylights. For researchers, this is an historic site because it is evidence of the continuation in Greece of the carpet-making tradition of Asia Minor. The factory was founded in 1923 by G.B. Mavroleontas and the Vaianos brothers. The latter brought over the business they had operated in Sili, Ikonio, in Asia Minor. In 1928, a crisis in the carpet-making industry led to the company’s foreclosure, and in 1934 the factory was sold to the Aphrodite Company under the name of Greek Silk Factory SA. For researchers, this factory also represents the primary cell of industrial development in the area. It was from there that the weaving industry, which was to leave its mark on the Nea Ionia area, had its beginnings. The Nea Ionia municipality has undertaken conservation work on one part of the complex but that does not include the oldest and most important buildings. The Greek branch of TICCIH believes the factory could be assigned new uses. «Similar proposals,» states the TICCIH report, «have been implemented to preserve industrial monuments in Greece and elsewhere in Europe, and we are certain that the City of Nea Ionia will be proud in the future of having preserved the the Eastern Carpet Factory in its entirety as a significant monument, a point of reference for the city, just as the municipality of Edessa is proud of preserving the old Hemp Factory and the municipality of Neapoli in Thessaloniki is of preserving the Ilios Silk Factory.» The industrial history of Greece continues to be undervalued.

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