How the few surviving buildings escaped demolition

Of the 20 remaining villas, those of the greatest architectural significance are the Villa Allatini, now prefectural offices, Casa Bianca, owned by the municipality, the Italian Consulate, Villa Mordoch, the former NATO buildings and the Siagas and Michailidis mansions, which are still family residences. «Most of those houses were saved because they became public property after the population exchange,» said Kolonas, referring to the movement of people between Turkey and Greece that was mandated by the Lausanne Treaty in 1923. «They were the most expensive properties and only state services could afford to buy them.» So they escaped «antiparochi,» an arrangement whereby a building is demolished in exchange for the right to an apartment in the block to be built in its place. They include the Erythros Stavros Hospital, the Melissa orphanage, the National Bank, the School for the Blind, the IKA social security foundation building, the prefectural offices, the old military hospital and the old university. Very few – the Siagas and Michailidis villas – were saved thanks to their owners. «We lived in the mansion until 1990,» Lydia Michailidou told Kathimerini, referring to the listed two-story building erected in the late 19th century, which became the property of tobacco merchant Alexandros Michailidis in 1926. «It had a huge garden which reached the sea with trees, climbing roses and other flowers. My husband adored it and although he was under pressure to demolish it, he refused. Even though it had suffered damage in earthquakes, he didn’t want to part with it.» The repairs were extremely expensive, but the building was saved when the family rented it to the bank, which, said Michailidou, did a splendid job of repairing it. «It was the greatest joy in my life and I’m sure my husband would have felt the same.» The Siagas mansion is the only one to have been inhabited continuously till the present day. A house with neoclassical features, it was built in 1889. It had an air of great luxury, enhanced by rare furniture, carved wooden ceilings, Spanish tapestry, mirrors, chandeliers and costly rugs. «I was born and raised in that house in the 1960s, when the area still had some of its old glory,» said Regina Siaga. «We still had a vast garden full of fruit trees. There were lots of summer cinemas, fish tavernas on wooden structures in the sea along Salaminas Street, and many mansions that no longer exist. They have been replaced by multistory apartment blocks.»