The Koundouriotis family, originally named Zervas, emigrated to Hydra in 1580 from northern Epirus. The family was the wealthiest and most powerful during the Greek War of Independence. Andreas Koundouriotis had two sons who played a leading part in the island’s affairs before and during the revolution: Lazaros and George.
Shipowner Lazaros Koundouriotis (1769–1852) was the most imposing figure during the War for Independence, earning the moniker “Father of the Nation.” Although he never held public political office, he consistently served the nation, spending most of his money to finance the Greek fleet. He is said to have contributed the enormous sum of 2 million drachmas to the war effort, or one-tenth of the contribution of Hydra, Spetses, and Psara combined. He is also said to have selected Admiral Andreas Miaoulis as commander in chief of the Hydra feet.
George Koundouriotis (1782-1858) served as president of the Provisional Government in the last years of the War of Independence. He went on to distinguish himself as a politician in the fledgling Greek state, holding high office.
Pavlos Koundoriotis (1855-1935), grandson of George, served as admiral and commander in the 1912 Greek-Turkish War, then served as regent and president of the republic.
(Source: Sofianos, Hydra)
Located near Hydra’s port, the archontika, or manor, of Lazaros Koundouriotis provides a superb example of the eighteenth-century Hydriot mansions facing the harbor, whose architecture often reflects influences from abroad. Built in 1780, it was donated to the Historic-Ethnologic Institute of Greece by the family’s descendants and today operates as a branch of the National Museum of History.
The building retains much of the quality of a functioning home, with exhibits appropriate to each room. The opulent interior features hand-painted ceiling borders, gilt moldings, marquetry, and black-and-white marble tile floors. Exhibits include paintings by the Greek artists Periklis and Konstantinos Byzantios, historical collections from the National Museum of History, furniture, mirrors, portraits, and heirlooms belonging to the Koundouriotis family, and 17th-century costumes, jewelry, embroidery, and ceramics.
From the National Historic Museum website:
Built in the era of naval prosperity of the island (late 18th century), it stands on the west side of the harbour of Hydra. Lazaros Koundouriotis (1769-1852) was one of the most eminent political figures of Hydra, who offered his ships, crew and fortune to the Greek War of Independence. Significant meetings and consultations took place in this mansion, which offered hospitality to many important figures of the time, Greeks and foreigners.
In 1979 the mansion came into the hands of the Historical and Ethnological Society of Greece after being donated by Pandelis L. Koundouriotis (1900-1978). Since 2001, the Historic Residence operates as a museum, annex of the National Historical Museum. Today’s visitor is impressed by the imposing exterior and peculiar interior of a Hydriote mansion.
On the ground floor, the Residence is presented with the Koundouriotis family heirlooms, as it was experienced by the last descendant of the family and donor of the Residence, Pandelis Koundouriotis.
On the first floor are representative works of Greek traditional folk art from the collections of the National Historical Museum, an art selection mainly from the Greek islands. At the same time, the work of the painter and academic Panayiotis Tetsis, paintings of landscapes of Hydra, demonstrate the special relationship of the artist with his homeland.
In the basement, in the old cellars of the house, there is a Gallery displaying works of two renowned painters, in Greece and abroad, Periklis Vyzantios (1893-1972) and his son Konstantinos (Dikos) Vyzantios (1924-2007), who are closely connected to Hydra and the Koundouriotis family.