Kapodistrias’s Barracks, northern of the flea market
Municipality of Argos
The barracks were first built in the 1690s by the Venetians and they were used as a hospital, administrated by the Sisters of Mercy. The Turks turned the building to a market (bezesteni) and every Sunday there was a big flea market from all over the region. Furthermore, the Post Office (Mentzi Hane) was lodged there. Due to the several Turkish idioms used for this building in records of the Revolution it is mentioned as “bezestenio” or “mentzilio”. During the Revolution the building was seriously damaged. According to evidence of foreigners and travelers it had turned to ruins. It was rebuilt by J. Kapodistrias (1828-1829) and first functioned as barracks for the cavalry. In 1830 the third wing was added at the north side of the big courtyard, which does not exist today. The rebuilding of the building was taken over by the architecture Lambros Zavos from Ithaca and the Engineers Officer K. Photakis had the general supervision of the works. On the ground floor there were the soldiers’ squad rooms, while the headquarters and the officers’ dormitories were lodged at the north wing. The building has gone through a lot of damage due to fire by the Bavarians in 1833 and it was necessarily rebuilt. Many of the characteristic elements of the buildings were lost due to the fire and the reconstruction. The barracks are characterized as a much-afflicted building – monument of Argos. They were very close to being demolished around 1945, when some geometrician wanted to make building sites of the large courtyard and sell the sites to Argeians.
Even though the building had gone through alterations and had been adjusted to the needs of the Army, there was no Army in Argos for long periods of time. The are many publications in local newspapers, through which dissatisfaction is expressed to governments together with the aspect that: “our Officers do not want to transfer to Argos because they do not want to lose the sweets of Giannakis patisserie, the beer and the selected cuisine of Hebe and the other pleasures of the Capital”. Indeed, around 1850 the Amy leaves Argos for many years and only in 1889 a unity of the cavalry comes from time to time, fro a short stay of about one year (1889-1890 and 1891-1892).
The following year (1893-94) the barracks are changed to a school, because the roof of the Kapodistrian School had collapsed. In May 1899 in the precincts of the barracks the opening of the First Agricultural – cattle breeding exhibition took place. King George was present and the exhibition was an event of Pan-Hellenic effect and great importance. During the period 1905-1912, the barracks of Kapodistrias lodged a unit of the infantry and later on Turkish pows of the Balkan War. In 1915 the cavalry inhabited the barracks again until about 1920 and later on emigrants from Asia Minor were hospitalized there. During the five years 1927-1932 the barracks were used by the School of Mounted Gendarmerie. During the following years (1932-1936) the Army repairs the barracks and it was then that the wooden floors of the ground floor were replaced by cement. Since then, the northern wing was unfortunately demolished, after a report by an Engineers Officer and this is why the Army rent Gordon’s house.
In the same year the sixth battalion of the Cannonry, this took part in the Greek-Italian War, together with many Argeians. During the German bondage the Barracks turned to an antre of interrogations and tortures and many years later during the years 1955-1968 it was the last time when this buildings lodged Army.
In 1971 the Municipality of Argos bought it from the National Defense Treasury for a very low price and very shortly the idea of demolition came up. This subject occupied the Municipality, Ministries, several institutions and the people of Argos until 1978 due to adherence of mainly the Municipality to demolish the monument. The most crucial moment was the 5th of March 1977, when the City Council decides for the demolition (decision 48/1977). The barracks were recognized as a landmark after many publications for the rescue of the monument, the dynamic interference of the inland revenue of antiquities of Nauplion, as well as of the Cultural Association of Argos, which was ready to be founded then and the visit of the Minister of Culture G. Plytas. The demolition thriller does not stop hear. The Municipality referred to the State Council hoping that the monument would be de-characterized. But the State Council considered the decision of the Ministry of Culture “lawful and adequate” and rejected the Municipality’s reference (7-11-1979).
The renovation of the barracks and their proper utilization is the intention of the local authorities today. A multiple-usage-hall will be created, a Byzantine Museum will function and the legal persons of the Municipality will be lodged. The outside coatings have been finished at the moment.
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