New lease of life for historic buildings
One of the most significant buildings in the history of the Cypriot town of Laranka, and once known as The English Club, will soon open to visitors as a centre for culture and creativity, showcasing the areas arts, crafts and heritage.
The town of Larnaka, a popular destination for tourists, continues to focus on sustainable tourism and culture with the restoration of Mattei House, a former British club, which will soon operate under the Municipality of Larnaka as a ‘Multispace of Creativity and Culture’.
The project will enrich Larnaka’s existing tourist product for both tourists and locals. Visitors will be able to watch traditional works of folk art included in UNESCO’s list of intangible heritage such as embroidery and basketry, and other arts that are part of Cypriot cultural heritage.
Larnaka Tourism Board recently undertook, with the support of the Deputy Ministry of Tourism, to cover part of the costs of refurbishing the new site.
The building is one of the most significant historic buildings of Larnaka and is interwoven with the history of the city from the 18th century when it began life as Mattei House, the home of Giacomo Mattei a merchant and landowner whose family ties stretched to Rome and Florence.
A mini documentary, in the Greek language, presents its history with interviews of those that experienced it as the ‘English Club’, renamed Larnaka Club in 1955, on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDBEwdxic3w.
The film begins with Dr. Iosif Hatzikyriakos, Director of the Phivos Stavrides Foundation-Larnaka Archives, explaining the ownership of the house in the second half of the 18th century. With the arrival of the English in Cyprus in 1878, it was turned into a club for civil servants and military personnel, the renowned “English Club”.
This building also served as the meeting place of the local elite community and the first tennis court on the island, constructed in white cement, in the courtyard. Dimitrios Z. Pieridis, President of the Pierides Foundation and Mrs Leda Sandama, former Member of the Club take a trip down memory lane.
Both Mr Pieridis and Mrs Sandama played tennis here when they were 11 and 14 years old, they had to finish promptly at 4:30 pm for the staff to set up for 5pm afternoon tea, this would follow with card games.
There was a reading room for those who did not play tennis or cards. Leda recalls the beautifully dressed ladies and the large hall used for special occasions such as Christmas and New Year’s Eve festivities with huge buffets and dancing.
Mr Pierides recalls that the library received important publications such as the Sphere and London Illustrated news. It was an officers’ meeting point, especially for naval officers, not just British but Italian too as Larnaka was a cosmopolitan centre. He mentions that he is pleased that Larnaka is expanding its soulful historic centre, which stretches from the Pierides Museum to the new cultural centre.
It takes in the old Ottoman bank which houses the Stavrides Foundation; the old kiosk that houses the Tourist Information Office and other outstanding historic buildings from the British administration such as the police station, the district administration office and the old customs office in Europe Square.
Last but by no means least, the writer and school principal, Mrs. Angela Kaimaklioti, describes on the video, the period after the Turkish invasion post 14 August 1974 when the club temporarily housed refugees.
She is delighted that this space, which she called home during a difficult time in her childhood, has been restored. What was a haven, a shelter in 1974 for a 14-year-old and her family alongside so many more, has been given a new and cultural lease of life that befits the building and Larnaka’s historic centre.
The mini documentary, which is in Greek with English subtitles, was created by the Larnaka Tourism Board and the Municipality of Larnaka with the support of the Ministry of Tourism.
For more information, contact https://larnakaregion.com