Beautiful old villa awaits restoration

A year has passed since the Culture Ministry – acting with surprising alacrity by the standards of the Greek bureaucracy – approved a study for the restoration of the Karanikolos Villa in Ileia. The romantic villa, set in a densely planted, 20-hectare estate, is now a ruin. The building, which shows a strong Italian influence, once belonged to a wealthy currant merchant by the name of Karanikolos and is thought to have been built around 1870. In recent years it became the property of the Patras-based Corinthian Currant Cooperative (SKOS). If everything had gone according to plan, this impressive building, which has been listed for preservation by the Culture Ministry, would by now have been an innovative study center – a venue for cultural and educational purposes. That was the decision made in 2003, when the previous administration of SKOS prioritized the restoration of the building and its conversion to a study center that would highlight the importance of the currant trade to the 19th century economy and society of the Peloponnese. Trade in currants, a major export to the West despite going through many ups and downs and facing fierce competition, was more or less the lifeblood of the region’s economy, especially in the northern and eastern Peloponnese. It also helped create a middle class that would eventually sustain a more outgoing lifestyle, which in turn would demand expression in noteworthy buildings. Karanikolos also owned impressive buildings in Patras, and all the townships and cities of the era also started sprouting neoclassical architecture, thanks to the prosperity brought by the currant trade. Those buildings were strongly influenced by the mood and the model of the West.