Story of Villa Praxithea
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Story of Villa Praxithea
     Villa Praxithea was named after Praxithea Pipinou-Zervou (my great grand-mother, who died in 1956), the first daughter of Yannis Pipinos (1857-1925), who was a wealthy sponge merchant, the richest person in Halki. 
 
Praxithea Pipinou-Zervou
Praxithea Pipinou-Zervou
 
    He earned his riches by exporting natural sponges overseas at the end of the 19th century. The very first building, was very different from what you can see today. It was probably a one storey building occupying the present day site of Villa Praxithea and Villa Hiona next door. This building was a small industry, where sponges were turned from their initial condition to what the ladies of that time used to take care of themselves.
 
     A very well known story of Halki took place in that building, on 14 May 1893. Α bunch of  dangerous pirates under the leadership of the fearsome "Psiroukis” came to the island in order to deprive Yannis Pipinos of his gold. They found him in the living room of the ground floor and asked him to surrender his gold to them or else they would take his life. He decided to hand in his gold and probably that was the beginning of the end of his business. That money was meant to be given to the captains who operated the sponge caiques as a prepayment, in order to prepare their long trip to North Africa, where they used to collect their precious merchandise. This true story has been turned into a local song, and if you are lucky enough you may hear it during a local fiesta.
 
     When Yannis Pipinos decided to lead his first daughter Praxithea to marriage with George Zervos, a promising young doctor who studied in Munich/Bavaria who was the son of a Kalymnian sponge merchant, he turned half of the sponge factory into a noble two storey neoclassical style house, for the new couple. At that time, when daughters were getting married they should have at least a house as a dowry, a “prika” as we call it in Greek. That happened in 1909, as the marble slab which is set on the wall above the main entrance, witnesses. However, this slab is not the original inscription. The original one was painted on the wall above the main entrance of the villa facing the sea, saying “Σήμερον εμού, αύριον ετέρου και ουδέποτε τινός”, which in free translation means “today it's mine, tomorrow will be somebody else's, but it will never belong to anybody ” . Wise words written by a wise man. Apparently it seems that it was a kind of fashion to put this inscription on houses at that time, and I have come across it two more times in my life. One of them was at the old family house of my future (at that time) wife, at Kastri Kunourias, in the middle of Peloponnese. Spooky !!!
 
     The young couple stayed at the house after their wedding where Praxithea gave birth to most of her 5 children. It was the time of the First World War. George who was the doctor of the island as well as the mayor for some period, used the second room on the left of the ground floor as a surgery. For hygiene reasons, he turned the floor of the room into concrete, now it has cotto tiles. When the children grew up, the family decided to leave Halki and move to Kalymnos which was a much bigger island and did not suffer from the economic crisis as Halki did at that time.

     After their departure, the Italian army used the house as a “caserma” or garrison where the soldiers lived. My grandmother Maria told us: ‘they used the basement bellow the living room as a detention room’. I hope nobody suffered there!
When my grandmother Maria, the first daughter of Praxithea, got engaged in Kalymnos, she wanted to show her “prika” to her future husband who was a Kalymnian who had never been to Halki. So, while being in Halki, she sent him a black and white postcard. (You can see it in enlargement on the walls of the villa)
 
postcard
 
     She had written on it: “This is to see our house, and Halki during its glorious era”. I think she was exaggerating a bit, as many houses were ruined.
 
     It was only in 1995 when Villa Praxithea came to the property of my brother Jacob and mine and we decided to restore it and turn it to a traditional tourist accommodation. As we are both engineers, my brother a civil engineer and me an architect, our main goal was to treat the house with respect, make the minimum of the necessary alterations  and maintain its character. The restoration started in 1997 and finished in 1999. The house initially had an interior wooden staircase where the bathrooms stand today. The new staircase was relocated outside the villa in order to divide the building into two independent apartments. The wooden doors and windows were replaced, and the wooden ceilings were restored where it was needed. We hope the result meets your standards.

    Our principle is to respect the guests of Villa Praxithea as part of the contemporary history of the house. We hope that you as the visitors of this dwelling will share the same feeling with us and respect the building in return.
 
“today it's yours, tomorrow it will be somebody else's, but it will never belong to anybody”
 

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Villa Praxithea
Halki 85110
Halki Dodecanese Greece
Telephone : +30 6972427272
Email : info@villapraxithea.com
EOT/ΜΗΤΕ : 1143Κ122Κ0482100
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