Timeless Penthouse

Written by Elias Alexopoulos at CorfuStories.com .

Taking the road from Spianada along the coastline, at the end of Marasli (or, according to Brokini, ‘towards the middle of the most delightful Garitsa road, exactly between the entrances of this northern suburb’), next to the intoxicating scents of jasmine and the green of eucalyptus trees, you will see a large, red mansion. Don’t hurry to pass by…

Until the WW2, many knew it as ‘Brondel’s house.’ Named after a British nobleman who, during the era of the ‘Protection,’ built the neoclassical structure in a Georgian colonial style. In the midst of what was then a semi-exotic garden, with rare trees and plants. Like the ‘Osage Orange’ (or, scientifically, Maclura pomifera), one of the few in all of Europe, exceeding ten meters in height, with large, spherical, yellow-green fruits that ‘were not meant to be eaten’ – and when it was there, nearby, ‘in the Borgo of Kastrades,’ the Gymnasium, schoolboys played with them. A few of these are still preserved, fragments, even in the (after the urban development of the area), opposite park of Garitsa.

Let’s start the story three centuries ago…. Late 16th century. There, according to reports, stood a monastery at that time. The Catholic Monastery of Ag. Justine (Santa Giustina), affiliated with the order of the Osserxanti monks. It is true. Moreover, it appears on maps from that period, more or less. By Balthasar Jenichen. Only tradition insists on something additional: it was built in memory. Of the Battle of Lepanto (1571). And it was dedicated to St. Justine, precisely because, as the day dawned that would change the fate of Europe, her feast day also dawned: October 7th. For Westerners, it’s the feast day of St. Justine. The first Martyr of Padua…

As confirmed, the Monastery also served as a makeshift Naval Hospital – with a Franciscan monk as its head physician. Petsalis quotes a text by Bacchion, according to which ‘the hospital for sailors, called Santa Giustina, was built with favorable omens in the years of Naupactus and for several years was considered one of the best in Italy. The care, cleanliness, and provision of services had established it as a model…’

Despite difficulties at various times, in the 17th century, the Hospital, with the establishment of a branch and staffed by Franciscan monks, continued to provide services to sailors on galleys suffering from infectious diseases. Moreover, on Orladi’s map, there is mention of ‘pathologists and surgeons and other personnel to treat and care for them, with all kinds of assistance and benevolence.'”

“Until when the operation of the Naval Hospital took place is not precisely clarified. However, it is by no means coincidental that among the lessons that were consistently offered within the walls of the Monastery (e.g., Latin, grammar), the medical school was particularly renowned. With the ‘ally’ being the rich library it gradually acquired – a source for today’s Public Historical Library, the oldest public library in the country.

From this source, we learned in detail that ‘the monks studied medicine, so there were old textbooks related to this science,’ and that ‘the medical school operated in the monastery where the sons of the nobles gathered from 1650, while it attracted the lively interest of the Corfiot society.’

Also, It was the place that Ioannis Kapodistrias received his initial education before continuing his studies in Padua (1794 or 1795). Arliotis notes this while speaking about the monastic studies of the ‘Governor’ from the age of 6 and onwards: ‘I was admitted to a monastery where I was poorly taught to read and even worse to write, because only these things remain through divine grace…’

According to writer Zoubos (EXI magazine), the Monastery was dissolved during the years of the Imperial French (early 19th century), and first, the Democrats (1789) “confiscated the property of the monastery and other religious institutions to meet the needs of education.” With the arrival of the British, the (neglected) garden of the Monastery was leased to a private individual, Count A. Mamonas, who, from preserved correspondence of the time, is revealed to have “made a great sacrifice and incurred substantial expenses (worked) for the acquisition of various plants and the repair of the houses’ and ‘cultivated the fields.”

Approximately 300 fruit trees as well as carnations, roses, aloe, and Spanish jasmine, with a total value of 328.50 columns, ornamental plants and fruit trees worth 572.50 ducats, 772 pots with exotic plants, 964 pots with young plants, 1,422 pots with annual plants, and 837 pots with small pear trees.”

Writter Zoubos continues, a timeline is emphatically noted: 1824. That’s when the issue of its use or concession for the creation of the Botanical Garden of the newly established Ionian Academy was raised. There was a ‘battle’ between Mamonas and the ‘Public’ regarding the matter of compensation, but it ended successfully. It is also mentioned that “when it finally began to be used as a botanical garden, it was taken over by the Italian practical botanist, Massiari, who traveled all over Corfu and collected about 4,000 local plants.”

The Botanical Garden of Ag. Justine did not last long. Already in the 1840s, it appears to have been transferred to the estate of Mon Repos, under the direction of Pavlos Prosalentis – the garden that we all know today.

And then, Brondel came along. And at the end of the century, tobacco.

Finances were tight. One solution the Trikoupi’s government considered was controlling rampant smuggling and increasing government revenue through taxation of widely consumed products. Such as tobacco, cigarette papers, and alcoholic beverages.

The Law “on tobacco taxation” came to the Assembly in 1887. To safeguard collection, the government imposed the processing and production of tobacco products in special public industrial centers: the Tobacco Factories (or, in official terminology, “internal consumption and cutting factories”).

In the Government Gazette of 14/4, a preliminary list of Tobacco Processing Plants that were envisaged within the Greek territory was published, totaling 79 of them, divided into four categories. Corfu (together with Athens, Volos, Kalamon, Larisa, Patras, Piraeus, and Syros) belonged to the first category. It’s indicative of its significance. What’s interesting is the simultaneous establishment, as a fourth category, of tobacco processing plants in Paxoi and Skripero, “of the Oros province.”

The date of their commencement of operations? “On the tenth day of the following month, August.” The eve of the great procession of Saint Spiridon

Τhe “boss” of the Tobacco Processing Plant was the (then) director, who henceforth entered the list of the “distinguished” of the region. There were also positions for inspectors, and, of course, the personnel (tobacco cutters and assistants), while the control of the imported and produced quantity was overseen by the local Tobacco Tax Office.

As noted by Zoubos, a police guard was permanently stationed at the entrance of the factory to prevent the smuggling of cigarettes. However, unexpected events were not uncommon. Thus, in 1900, the Athenian newspaper “Σκριπτ” (issue of May 13) reported that the Tobacco Processing Plant of Corfu was one of those where revenues for the two-month period “decreased (in total) by 117,593 drachmas, and this significant reduction was mainly due to the smuggling of tobacco and cigarette paper, which was carried out in the areas around these tobacco processing plants…”

With the establishment of the first local cigarette factories (towards the end of the 19th century), the Tobacco Processing Plant hosted their production. From the 1920s (almost), all of them were on the ground floor, with the largest belonging to Nikiphoros and Mianatis.

During the WW2, the Tobacco Processing Plant was requisitioned, with the German-Italian forces “using” it for the production of cigarettes for the pleasure of the occupying forces. However, as reported by writters Kyriakos and Moraitis, in the evenings, the workers from Corfu “took out boxes of cigarettes from the tobacco processing plant and distributed them for free to the residents of Garitsa. These boxes helped many Garitsa families survive. The Garitsians would ‘exchange’ the cigarettes for other essential goods such as milk, oil, flour, rice…”

After liberation, the situation gradually returned to its previous course as much as possible. However, at the same time, the countdown began. Before the “closure” in 1952.


  • https://corfustories.com/2020/10/07/naymachia-lepanto-ki-omos-to-kapnergostasio/
  • https://www.corfuhistory.eu/?p=136
  • Μωραϊτης Χ. – Κυπριώτης Θ. Η Βιομηχανική Ιστορία της Κέρκυρας, Κέρκυρα 2017