This is the beginning of a new series I decided to create. The series will revolve around the city I have lived in for the past sixteen years, Thessaloniki. Over the years I have discovered many intriguing places in the city and the surrounding area, which I think deserve their own spotlight. They are the less well known places, monuments or landmarks that for some reason fascinate me and I think they should be seen by more people. They are also the more well known places, which can be seen in a slightly different way. So I decided to photograph them, in my own special way. I will accompany each photo with a text providing information on the location where it was taken and its history.
This is the Salem mansion. It is located in a part of Thessaloniki which was known as the “Countryside district”, outside the city’s walls. Until the mid 19th century there were only some small houses and fields there, thus the name. By the end of the 19th century the rich Greek, Turks and Jewish merchants from the city started moving there and building their glorious mansions. During the first world war, many of them were used by the army and after the second world war the whole area had lost its splendor and was left to decay until the 60s when most of the beautiful historic mansions were demolished and ugly appartment buildings took their place. However, a few of them were saved and some were luckily restored to their prior beauty. Others though are still facing decay and neglect.
The Salem mansion was bought in 1878 by a Jewish merchant named Tzerbogas who ten years later sold it to a woman named Anna Evelman, from Switzerland. In 1894 it was sold again to the Jewish lawyer Emmanuel Raphael Salem and in 1915 it became the new home for the Italian consulate. After the 1978 earthquake the consulate moved to another building (which was built where another mansion used to stand) and this mansion was abandoned. Some repairs were made in 1984, but after that this beauty was left to fall apart little by little. Today the building is owned by the italian government and, as far as I know, there are no plans for its restoration.
The countryside district’s history has always fascinated me. Looking at pictures from its glory days, you can’t help but compare with how it looks today. It seems unbelievable to me that such a district once existed, with its gorgeous houses and the well preserved gardens, just a breath away from the beach. It is so sad that such a treasure was not deemed worth saving, so that the next generations can also marvel at it. The beauty of the Salem villa is astonishing and one can only imagine how magnificent it must have looked in its prime. The fact that there is no interest in reviving its glory makes me incredibly sad. This is just one of the remaining mansions of the countryside district that are abandoned and subject to destruction and vandalization. I can only hope that there is a future for it. I for one, would be thrilled to see it thriving again.