Surviving villas stir memories of a bygone era

Thessaloniki used to have an entire district of elegant mansions. From the late 19th century until the interwar period, a series of imposing houses in a remarkable variety of styles stretched from the White Tower to the Villa Allatini, and lined Vassilissis Olgas Avenue all the way to the sea. Reflecting the multiethnic composition of the city at the time, the district was home to Turks, Jews, Greeks and others. Industrialists, tobacco merchants and businessmen paid 30,000-40,000 gold sovereigns for a luxurious residence. The neighborhood housed all the consulates. It also saw its fair share of dramatic events. On March 5, 1913, King George I was assassinated by Alexandros Schinas while taking his daily walk outside the school on the corner of Vas. Olgas Avenue and Aghias Triadas Street. That neighborhood, extolled by writers and travelers, is long gone; its mansions with their flower-filled gardens, the summer cinemas and shorefront fish tavernas have been replaced by look-alike structures that have erased the area’s character. Vas. Olgas Avenue is busy, noisy and crowded with cars and multistory apartment blocks.