The “Elaiourgiki” oil mill belongs to the second generation of industries that settled in Eleusis in the 1950s. It was a period of economic dynamism, as the country was trying to heal the wounds from a decade of warfare and take advantage of new possibilities that appeared on all levels. We can, therefore, regard this industrial unit as a symbol of the changes that marked the period, especially if we take into account that the company’s buildings were erected on the plot once occupied by a historic industry of Eleusis.
Make way for tomorrow
The Hadjimeletis-Hatzielias soap factory was founded in 1891-2, when the region took its first tentative steps toward industrialization with companies that used local raw materials (in this case the olive oil of the Thriasian Plain). The soap factory was a small enterprise (employing approximately ten workers) and remained in operation until 1922. Since then the plot and its facilities had been largely abandoned. As the land near the harbour was ideal for the establishment of new factories, it seems almost inevitable that “Elaiourgiki” would take advantage of this precious plot.
All the olives of Greece
The “Central Cooperative Union of Olive Oil Producers” was formed in 1949 to defend the interests of Greek olive producers. Its significance was apparent from the outset, as the 58 associations of agricultural cooperatives that constituted its members accounted for 90% of the olive growers in the country. In the early years, the fruit was processed in cooperative oil mills. In 1955 the Union decided to set up its own factory in Eleusis, at the heart of the coastal industrial zone next to the “Kronos” and “Iris” factories.
The factory complex covered most of the area of the old soap factory (approximately ten acres). There were buildings for oil processing and soap production, warehouses, industrial chimneys and other auxiliary spaces. The heart of the complex was an imposing 3000 square-meter three-storey building where the plot of “Elaiourgiki” abuted the perimeter wall of “Kronos”.
A primitive process
At the peak of its operations, “Elaiourgiki” employed 150 people in the main factory and its warehouses (one was located near the port and the other was at the corner of Athanasiou and Anastasiou Mouriki street and Iera Odos; the latter is currently occupied by the Eleusis Shooting Club). Production was based on countless barrels of oil that arrived by sea from all over Greece. Small boats delivered the barrels and workers rolled them with their hands from the beach to the factory. Thousands of casks were stacked all over the compound waiting to be sorted by category (industrial and virgin olive oil). The residue from the manufacturing process was used to make white or green soap, but here too the method employed was quite primitive: the residue was spread on the floor, cut it into pieces and sealed with the brand name. Workers were entitled to five large containers of olive oil a year and a certain quantity of soap.
The factory vanishes
The oil mill ceased to operate in 1980 when new facilities were built near Sarantapotamos outside Eleusis. Unlike other industrial complexes in the area, there is almost no trace left of the “Elaiourgiki” buildings or the mechanical equipment. Even the plot has almost disappeared; it was “broken” into several pieces, separated by city streets. Athanasiou and Anastasiou Mouriki street isolates the eastern part of the plot, while Stathi street has cut off the western edge. The old factory buildings have been replaced by modern residential dwellings erected by the Workers’ Housing Organization (OEK) and large commercial stores.
The only remnant of “Elaiourgiki” is the dilapidated oblong two-storey building with the tile roof at the corner of Morphopoulou and Kanellopoulou streets. It probably housed administrative services (in the neighboring “Kronos” factory the administration building was also located next to the beach), but it is remarkable that it was actually part of the Hatzimeletis-Hatzielias soap factory. Although in poor condition, with obvious traces of the demolished adjacent buildings, it remains an exciting testament to a time when Eleusis took its first brave steps towards industrialization.