The Grand Club of Kavala, in the historic city located on the Halkidiki peninsula in northern Greece, has reopened after extensive renovation and restoration which lasted for a total of nine years. Often called a jewel of neoclassical architecture, the landmark building of the city was constructed in the late nineteenth century as a display of the wealth and power of the city while it was under Ottoman occupation.
Opened in 1910, its ostentatious facade lent a distinguished air to the city and became inextricably linked with the history of Kavala. Before the turn of the nineteenth century, the city had been not much more than a poor village. Under the Ottomans it became, in the space of just a few years, a large, multicultural community with vastly-improved infrastructure and housing.
Built to resemble Vienna’s Musikverein
Today, the Roman-era aqueduct joins the peninsula with the rest of the city and the remains of a Byzantine-era fort still stand proudly atop the promontory.
The Club owes its importance not only to the stateliness of its architecture but for having hosted some of the greatest personalities of modern and contemporary Greece from the field of politics, arts and letters, with numerous gala events held there.
It was built in 1910 by Philoptochos Adelfotis Kyrion Kavalas, a women’s charity for the benefit of the poor, in order to house the club for the Greek community of Kavala. From an architectural perspective, the Megali Leschi (Great Club) is known as one of the most exceptional examples of Austrian baroque architecture in Europe and some even believe that it imitates part of the extraordinarily ornate Vienna Concert Hall, the “Musikverein.”
The building was renovated by the Municipality of Kavala, in collaboration with the Kavala-Thassos Ephorate of Antiquities, assuring that its architectural beauty would remain intact while adapting it to its new use for cultural events.
The Club’s architecture is very much in the spirit of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, which wove together the desire to display power and wealth with an innate sense of national pride in the ancient Greek traditions.
Kavála, also spelled Kaválla, in ancient times Neápolis, a commercial town and seaport, is situated in East Macedonia and Thrace, in northeastern Greece. It curves along the shores of the Gulf of Kaválas in the northern Aegean Sea.
Many listed buildings in city tailor-made for history lovers
The town is built on a promontory stretching south into the gulf, opposite the island of Thasos. The town’s old Turkish quarter is surrounded by Byzantine-era walls and occupies the small promontory, which is crowned by a stunning Byzantine castle.
The new, more modern town spreads out north of the main harbor, which was formed by the construction of two long seawalls after World War II.
The building which housed the Club is the last in a row of exquisitely lovely structures on the cobblestone Cyprus street, all listed on the historic register, which testify to the prosperity of the once-robust tobacco producing town. Other notable structures alongside the Grand Club include the Catholic church of Agios Pavlos, the Town Hall, the Wix Mansion, the old Girls’ School and the Tokos Mansion, which now houses the Ephorate of Antiquities.
Of course, 2021 was supposed to have been the year the doors of the Grand Club reopened to the public after the extensive renovations. Chandeliers and candlelit sconces were to once again illuminate the impressive wall paintings, carved porcelain heaters would glow again, the hallways would reflect in the mirrors and the imposing marble entrance would have once more welcomed all those wishing to become acquainted with the building’s rich history.
Unfortunately, however, the coronavirus pandemic suspended all events and activities planned by the Municipality of Kavala and all those involved in its impressive renovations. Instead, online commemorations will replace the gala opening events which will highlight this building’s beautifully-preserved, unique architecture.