The “Ziller Neighborhood” – The once-upon-a-time “Neighborhood of Mansions”

The “Ziller Neighborhood”

The renowned architect Ernst Moritz Theodor Ziller was born and raised in Radebeul, a suburb of Dresden, in Germany. During his studies he worked for a period of time in Vienna in the office of the Danish architect, Theophilos Hansen. A few years later, in 1861, Ziller came to Athens as Hansen’s representative and undertook the supervision of the construction of the Academy of Athens.

He soon became integrated into Athens society and permanently settled in Greece, eventually getting the Greek citizenship. Ziller, being the leading architect in Greece of the 19th century, exercised a catalytic influence on Athens and Piraeus’ urban landscape, filling it with more than 500 buildings.

Ernst Ziller in Piraeus

In 1875 Ziller settled in Piraeus. He purchased a large piece of land in the area around Alexandra’s Square, between Pasalimani and Kastela, and within, at the plot where Saint Catherine’s church today stands, he constructed his summer house. To be exact, Ziller actually retrofitted an old glass factory his brother used to own along with his partner, the eminent citizen Peter Origoni.

The “Neighborhood of Mansions” by Ernst Ziller

A pioneer, decades ahead of his time, Ziller visualized the creation of a quarter of refined and elegant architectural style residences which would bear his mark and bring the wider region to prominence.

Putting his ideas into action, he created, on the slopes of Kastela, at Alexandra’s Square, an entire neighborhood of fine detached summer houses in picturesque style, thus giving the, until then, desolate area a unique character and color. The newly constructed, fashionable quarter was completed in 1877 and named “Ziller Neighborhood”, after its inspirer and creator, while it is also known as “Neighborhood of Mansions”.

Each of these mansions was a true work of art. The astute architect, however, didn’t rely on his buildings’ beauty alone; aiming at attracting the wealthy bourgeoisie, that is, the rich merchants and manufacturers of the city, and make a good sale, he invited King George I and Queen Olga to spend two consecutive summers in the most opulent mansion in the neighborhood.

The “Ziller Neighborhood” as depicted in Penelope Delta’s “Crazy Anthony”

Penelope Delta, a notable Greek author of children’s literature, describes the “Neighborhood of Mansions” in one of her masterpieces, “Crazy Anthony” as such:

Seven were the Ziller houses, one next to another and detached. The first was huge with three façades while the other six were identical to one another, with a little patio facing towards the sea and a backyard towards the hill [of Prophet Elijah]… In the first house, the large one, the King spends the summer; in the second one, a Russian lady, one of the Queen’s maids of honor [is staying]; in the third one, Anthony [is staying] with his brothers and his uncle and aunt, and in the rest of them, down the street, several others [are staying] who, like the King, have come down here from Athens to spend the hot summer near the cool Piraeus sea…

The “Ziller Neighborhood” through the eyes of Yiannis Tsarouhis

Yannis Tsarouchis - KastellaThe world famous painter and thinker Yiannis Tsarouhis (1910 – 1989), born and raised in Piraeus, two blocks away from the “Ziller Neighborhood”, is considered to be one of the leading representatives of the Mid-WWII and Post-WWII period of Modern Greek Art.

Tsarouhis, known for his deep love for his hometown and having spent a great part of his childhood at “Metaxas Residence”, yet another magnificent specimen of neoclassical architecture by Ernst Ziller, immortalized the “Neighborhood of Mansions” on canvas, on several occasions.

The “Patsiadou Residences”

Of all the mansions at Alexandra’s Square constructed by Ziller, only one remains standing. Half, to be precise, given that the mansion surviving to this day was the first part of the imposing “Patsiadou Residences” since the flour manufacturer P. Patsiadis’ house consisted of two separate manors!

Ziller’s architectural stamp is obvious on both the exterior of the building – with the characteristic arched openings, the odd-looking dome, the intricately carved balconies, the ornamental edge tiles and the gables – and the interior alike. In post-war years, the building housed the Italian Consulate of Piraeus, while a famous café – brasserie had been operating for many decades on the ground floor.

The “Ziller Neighborhood” – The once-upon-a-time “Neighborhood of Mansions”
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