Tatoi Royal Estate

Tatoi Royal Estate

This 10,000-acre summer palace was the main residence of the members of the former royal family of Greece - located 27 km from the city center of Athens. The fate of the Tatoi estate and the eponymous mansion found in the densely wooded southeast-facing slope of Mount Parnitha is undeniably connected with Modern Greek history since the 1880s.

In 1916, with the resignation of the government of Eleftherios Venizelos and following an ethnic divide, a great part of Tatoi estate and its auxiliary buildings were burned down. After the Asia Minor Catastrophe (1922) and the proclamation of the First Greek Republic (1923), Tatoi, along with other palaces, became public property. Except for an area of 3,500 acres where refugees from Asia Minor settled and formed today's community of Kryoneri. In 1936, the restoration of the nation returned the manor to its initial owners. In 1946, after a referendum, the former royal family started to reside there once more.

More specifically, the history of Tatoi began from Ancient Dekelia and continues throughout the Ottoman Empire, but the real story began in 1872 with its purchase by King George II of the Hellenes. In 1898, after sequential purchases, and by granting it to the King by Parliament as a private property Tatoi became the largest estate in Attica. He designed it as a leisure property in which the forest is supposed to be the dominant element and then the various buildings. Much to the dismay of Ernst Ziller, who was the architect of the first royal residence.

The first house was completed in 1874 and was a simple 2-story house influenced by Swiss architecture, which paradoxically, was never meant to be used as a palace, but as a royal guesthouse. Just above the engraved orchard for which plants from all over the Mediterranean were selected, the construction began. It was in 1884 then, that the Palace started to take form, mimicking a villa complex of palaces in Petergof, St. Petersburg.

The new house inhabited by King George in 1889, immediately after the wedding of Crown Prince Constantine, to whom was allowed the use of the old house. By the end of the 19th century, Tatoi had acquired 2 churches -Prophet Ilias (1873) and Anastasios (1899); 2 or 3 houses for courtiers; a telegraph office; the residence of the director; 3 complexes for workers; a winery; 3 stables; warehouses; laboratories; and accommodations for the Guard. An old windmill was converted into a tower, in which an archaeological museum was created that kept ancient findings of the area.

Tatoi also has 400 km of roads/alleys, bridges, water and fire protection systems, and 2 ponds (the "Goose" and the "Guitar"). The estate included also an inn for passersby. It also acquired a hotel, named "Tatoion", which was featured in European tourist guides of the time. In the first decade of the 20th Century, stone barracks were added to the property. It is remarkable that parallel to the localization of the Dynasty, Tatoi lost its original aesthetic of homogeneity and northern character. The great fire of 1916 marked the end of its golden age. Most of the forest was incinerated, as well as hundreds of deer that King George had brought from Hungary. The royal stables, the church of Prophet Ilias, the museum, and the Old Palace were all reduced to ashes. The turbulent political period that followed the fire prevented immediate repair. Redevelopment occurred during the years of the First Republic, thanks to the care of all consecutive governments, and the supervision and skills of its new Director, Drouvas Vasilios (1925-1961).

The aforementioned period included the horrible years of the occupation, where Drouvas managed to keep the balances between the occupiers and guerrillas. The latter who found refugee on Mount Parnitha, so as to save the legacy. After the famed "Dekemvriana", the estate and villa completely belonged to the municipality of Athens. In the summer of 1945, it was burned to the ground again. The motives were clearly political. The reconstructions began once again in 1946. To compensate for the loss of profit that resulted from the destruction of the forest, Drouvas focused on wine production and dairy products. In 1952, a sleek new premise was built, and its products, as well as all the products of the estate, were sold in hotels, hospitals, institutions, and camps.

Towards the end of 1946, the royal family moved back into the palace permanently and stayed there, uninterrupted, until driven out by the rise of the junta on December 13th, 1967. But the estate was passed down as private property to Constantine II until 1994 when the royal estates were confiscated by the government of Andreas Papandreou. Constantine took the matter to the European Court of Human Rights, who ruled in his favor in 2003. They were not able to force the return of the estates, but they were able to legally force the government to pay him €12m in compensation; this amounted to only 1% of its real worth. The government paid his compensation from the Greek Natural Disasters fund trying to embarrass Constantine by claiming by paying out money to him he was harming the Greek people in need. Constantine used the funds to set up the "Anna Maria Foundation" to provide grants to needy Greeks in time of hardship caused by natural disasters. Moreover, many of the former royal family is buried at a private cemetery located on the south end of the estate in a large wooded area.

In September 2003, Tatoi palace was declared a preservable building by the Central Council of Modern Monuments, upon recommendation of the Greek Society for the Protection of the Environmental and Cultural Heritage. In June 2007, the Greek government announced its intention to convert the property into a museum. However, in September 2012, it was announced that the Government intended to sell the palace and its estate in the face of mounting financial pressure. In 2015, ten carriages that were kept on the grounds of Tatoi were designated as cultural monuments by the Central Council for Modern Monuments of Greece. However, the vehicles (which were not included in this decision) remained in ruins. In the year 2016, some parts of the roofs have fallen on the cars.

Currently, the Greek Government has planned no efforts for the preservation of the Tatoi Palace, neighboring buildings, and the natural surrounding area. Theft, vandalism, and illegal water extraction occur almost every month, as political corruption allows this. In the case of a fire, the buildings, the flora, and the fauna would be completely defenseless. Damage caused by time and weather is extensive. The Greek State has renamed it as a metropolitan area. A political idea to convert the former royal estate to a private winery or a resort with restaurants and barbecue could erase the important history from this important part of modern Greek history. Nevertheless, this proposal was criticized by private persons and organizations, who would still like to open Tatoi as a museum for the people.