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Historic dye-work plant is crumbling away April 21, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.

An important monument of Greece’s industrial heritage suffers from neglect as promises for regeneration fail to become a reality

chropei_factory.jpg  The Chropei dye-work plant covers 4.7 hectares, including the building on Pireos Street dating from the late 19th century. It is one of the few remaining open spaces in the Municipality of Piraeus and an important monument of the country’s industrial heritage.

Local residents complain that the area is polluted by waste and that bins are deliberately placed there to make cementing over the area look like a project that would upgrade the quality of life. Meanwhile, Chropei gets even more dilapidated.

The announcement of a facelift for Pireos Street 15 years ago raised hopes that a regeneration of the city’s industrial zone was nigh. Memories of the city’s industrial past would be blotted out but new activities, mainly of a cultural character, would replace the ruined shells of the former factories. This plan never came into effect, as the current dilapidated state of the Chropei dye-work plant attests. Many still envisage a mall on the site of the old factory, even though the area has been designated for green spaces, sports facilities and cultural activities in the Athens Town Plan and in the Piraeus Town Plan. The plot, which covers 4.7 hectares, including the 19th century building on Pireos Street, is one of the few remaining open spaces in Piraeus as well as an important monument to Greece’s industrial heritage.

Fifteen years later, the promises of regeneration remain stashed away in a drawer and the industrial building in question, currently owned by the National Organization for Medicines (EOF), is crumbling away while the rest of the plot, under the ownership of the National Bank of Greece until 1999 and then by the Haragioni Group, has been turned into a dumping ground for all kinds of garbage.

Two years ago, local organizations, fed up with the intolerable situation, went to court and the Piraeus Magistrates Court imposed a term of imprisonment on those responsible in the Piraeus Municipality and the Haragioni Group.

Local inhabitants still claim that the area is polluted by waste and bins deliberately placed there to make cementing over the area look like a project that would upgrade the quality of life. The area has already suffered with the operation of the Karaiskaki Stadium, the Peace and Friendship Stadium and the building of the flyovers in Neo Faliron. Filling it with concrete would deprive Piraeus of green and recreation areas as well as exacerbate the already severe traffic congestion.

“Changing the plot’s description from a green and recreation area is a serious moral issue. Yet the plot was sold with the government’s consent despite promises to the inhabitants of Neo Faliron that it would be incorporated into the Olympic Games projects,” said Michalis Ghion, President of the Neo Faliron Educational and Cultural Association. “We are waiting for the government and the newly elected Piraeus Municipal authority to give their pledge that the plot will not be ex-appropriated and the regeneration plan will be implemented. Neo Faliron and Piraeus urgently require greenery and cultural areas.”

“A lack of respect for the historical nature of the old factory has been evidenced by the renaming of the street from Economidi to Andrea Mourati. This action is offensive and shows complete disregard for Greece’s industrial tradition. The dye-work plant no longer stirs emotions and its disintegration continues. However, regenerating the plot and renovating the works with a view to providing recreational and cultural activities would give breathing space to the whole of Piraeus,” pointed out Nikos Melios, an economist and historian at the Institute for the Study of Local and Corporate History.

The factory that produced the painkiller Algon > The largest factories on Pireos Street were set up between 1883 and 1926 at its southern end. The Chropei dye-work plant, founded by chemists Spilios and Leontios Economidis, was the first to start operating in 1883. Next to follow was the Kerameikos Pottery Works in 1911, founded by the chemist N. Kanellopoulos, who also co-founded the Drapetsona Fertilizers and the Titan Cement Works together with Leontios Economidis, civil engineer Alexandros Zachariou and others. It was this legendary group of graduates of the Zurich Polytechnic, nicknamed the Zurich group, which launched Greek industry at the beginning of the 20th century and ensured it remained competitive until the breakout of the Second World War. In 1920, the Elais Olive Oil Factory was opened by Makris and Associates, followed by the Ion Chocolate Factory, founded by the Maroulis brothers in 1926.

After the discovery of aniline, a by-product of carbon, Chropei became a chemical industry, using the new chemical for the production of synthetic dyes which replaced natural ones in textile manufacturing.

In 1883 the dye-work plant was initially a small enterprise bearing the name of Spilios A. Economidis and Co. In 1899, the foundation stone was laid in Neo Faliron. Its founder, Economidis, had studied chemistry at Graz and had worked with the German chemist Adolf Bayer, who discovered aspirin. The business, like most other businesses back then, was a family affair where all of the four Economidis brothers, Leontios, Kleomenis, Harilaos and Giorgos, and relatives Sotirios Sofianopoulos and Achilleas Karamesinis worked. Leontios was the closest to Spilios and he expanded the business and turned it into an SA company. Leontios Economidis had also studied chemistry in Munich and continued his studies in Zurich, graduating from the famous Polytechnic where he became acquainted with other Greek contemporaries who were later to become the pioneers of Greek industry, namely Kanellopoulos, Arapidis, Hadzikyriakos and Roussopoulos. They became close friends and later collaborated with one another.

A few years after its inception, Chropei became a leader in the Greek dye industry at a time when the production of synthetic dyes was a central activity on both the Greek and European markets. With the outbreak of the Second World War, the factory was called upon to contribute to the war effort. The business continued after the war and was run by the next generation of the Economidis family until 1948, when it passed into the hands of Sofianopoulos. By then the decline in the dye industry had already begun.

After 1950, radical changes in production and strategy took place; new products, such as animal foodstuffs, were manufactured while medicines and chemical products continued to be produced, in particular the painkiller Algon. In the 1970s, attempts to manufacture whitewash were made with little success. The plant eventually closed in 1989.

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