The Varouchas mansion

Text: Avgi Kalogianni | Photos: Dimitris Vranas (A.I.F.)

On the street leading to Panagia Eleousa (Virgin of Tender Mercy), starting off at the church of Taxiarches and ending at the Upper Gate of the Castle, at today’s 11 Archilochou Street, stands the Varouchas mansion, home to a family with a long history that left its mark mainly in the field of archaeology.

The head of the family, Folegandros island-born Andreas Varouchas, married Maria Venieris on Paros and had the homonymous mansion designed and built in the simplified neoclassical style that we often see on the islands. A striking feature of the home’s exterior is the marble staircase with its landing running the full length of the facade. In the densely-built sections of the town, and especially within its defensive rings, the ground floor and the upper floor are usually separate residences, so the staircase leading to the first floor had to be external. Here the landing rests on a wall parallel to the frontage forming a second level of facade that isolates the staircase from the street below, and, along with the front entrance at the foot of the staircase, indicates that both the upper floor and the ground floor make up a single residence. This arrangement, which requires ample facade width, is common in middle-class houses and mansions and bears witness to the social status of their residents, while serving as a connecting link between lower-class and neoclassical houses.

Inside, we find the largest room, the living room, the heart of the house, while smaller rooms off the main living space are utilized as bedrooms, a study and a kitchen. The furniture, lighting fixtures and other home furnishings exude a cosmopolitan sophistication and are eloquent testimony of the family’s story.

On the property of Andreas Varouchas in Parikia, a fragment of the Parian Chronicle, which is currently kept in the Archaeological Museum of Paros, was found in 1897.
Irene Varouchas, a distinguished archaeologist who identified her name with the foundation of the Numismatic Museum, was born in this house. Irene Varouchas had intended to study medicine but, at her father’s urging, she eventually opted for archaeology. She served archaeology in the dark years of the German Occupation and saw to it that the numismatic collections were transferred for security reasons from the premises of the Academy of Athens, where they were housed until 1940, to the Bank of Greece.

Irene Varouchas left Paros at the very young age of 9, but she would keep visiting and vacationing at the Parikia mansion until her passing in 1979. The house was mainly inhabited by her sister Ellie who engaged in resistance action during the Occupation.

Irene Varouchas’ daughter, Avgi Proukakis, was also an archaeologist. “I initially considered becoming an architect, but archaeology seemed to run in the family as a one-way career path!” she says. The exterior of the house is depicted in old photographs and paintings “since the alley with the arch against the sunset was painted or photographed by many,” as Avgi’s sons, Nikos and Christos Proukakis, recall.

Varoucha’s mansion was open to the public on July 12/13/14 2019 during the “Paros Festival”