Tabakaria, Halepa

a unique architectural complex of old leather processing houses

Tabakaria, the place of processing of hides, developed in the rocky eastern region of Chania before the mid-19th century, far from the walls of the city - although evidence for the establishment of tanneries in Chania existed since the 18th century.

The main installation of these craftsmen in the area, held during the Egyptian occupation (1830-1840), according to official Arabic document. The place chosen for installation was the most appropriate: The reason for choosing this area was that it was quite far and yet near the city, in a location where there are plenty of underground brackish waters beside the shallow sea that were useful for the first stage of processing. The first installation was in the coastal section of road Vivilaki and later (after 1920) was extended to the east ("Agia Kiriaki" - Holy Sunday).

The Interwar period was the era of the heyday of Tabakaria. During the German Occupation tanneries stopped functioning while post war new machinery equipment replaced older methods and modernization made crafts more productive and profitable. Significant share of turnover accounted exports. The decline came in the 70s, to reach nowadays remaining alive about one tenth of the initial operations. Remaining buildings, shells, sometimes with the whole old equipment, monuments today of the industrial archeology. Today from tanneries others are abandoned, others have changed use and some of them continue their operation. The element that has not changed over time is the architecture.Adapted to the natural inclinations of the landscape, tanneries are ground floor with entrance from the street and two or three floors from the side of the sea. Built with stone and tile roofs, are arranged in a row, and interrupted only by a very narrow steep passages with steps down to the sea. Constitute a unique architectural ensemble.

In the mid-19th century the village of Halepa was extending east from the city, outside the city walls. The area played an important role in the history of Crete, as the famous "Halepa Agreement" was signed on October 1878 between Ottomans and Cretans for the assignment of a limited autonomous regime in the island.The street "Halepas" (today the street "El. Venizelos"), the main street outside the city walls, started east from the city of Chania and ended at the aristocratic suburb of "Halepa", the wealthy residential area of Chania.It was a neat street, with blue acacia trees. In Halepa, there were luxurious and beautiful buildings, as well as the consulates of the Great Powers. There was also the school of "San Joseph", where nuns taught French and "savoir vivre" to the rich girls, as well as the elegant church of Aghia Magdalene with its beautiful gardens.

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