No careless modern construction disturbs the wide arc of dignified and regular 19th century stone houses with pitched roofs and plastered facades grouped around the island’s protected harbour. Its harmonious sweep is punctuated by two clear verticals–the campanile of Aghi os Nikolaos and the tall, municipal clock tower; behind the latter is the conspicuous triangular pediment of the Old School Building, set back above the centre of the port. Emboreio is an architectural unity created mostly in the 19th and early 20th centuries at the height of the sponge-trade boom which brought considerable wealth to the island. To the north side of the harbour is the island’s principal church of Aghios Nikolaos, surrounded by a fine pebble-mosaic floor (1868), with large and serene cy press-tree and bird designs by the building’s east end. Above the apse, high up on the exterior, are capricious re lief-decorations of animals. In the forecourt to the south is a baptismal font and the tomb of the church’s principal benefactor. Although the church is originally a 16th century foundation, it presents itself today as a largely 19th century re-build; it possesses an impressive templon screen inside. The five-tier bell-tower (32m), designed in 1894 by the Rhodian architect, Lefteris Sellas, incorporates pieces of ancient marble from the Temple of Apollo at Pefkia, two of which form the crown of the arch on the west side. There is a small ecclesiastical museum above the narthex, entered from the outside of the church. Behind the centre of the harbour sweep, stands the free-standing clock tower built in the early 1900s by subscription from amongst the island’s emigres in Florida and consciously reflecting the design of the similar clock tower on the harbour-front at Symi—an island with which Chalki had strong links through the sponge-trade. (The clock’s mechanism has been stopped and silenced since 1994.) Beside its base, and contiguous with a ruined house to its south, is the still integral, domed chamber of a large Ottoman cistern in un-rendered stone, known locally as ‘sarantzi’, a corruption of the Turkish sarnΔ±c (cistern). Just above, in pseudo-Palladian style, the Demarcheion (Town Hall) grandly dominates the sky line; this was also built by emigre subscription, first as a Lykeion or school for boys and then later converted into the Town Hall. In front of the steps to the upper floor at the rear of the building are a few ancient marble fragments, including a piece of the lid of a Hellenistic sarcophagus carved with the head of Medusa. The port extends to the south of the clock tower to wards the area originally given over to the sponge-trade. The large stone mansion with blue shutters known as the Moudouria (Turkish mudur, ‘administrator’) was the Ottoman governor’s office during Turkish occupation. Beyond this, the street leads to the Hotel Halki (currently under restoration) which occupies the old sponge-factory building. The First World War, followed by restrictions in sponge fishing imposed in 1916 by the Italian occupation, made the sponge industry no longer viable and led to mass emigration by the islanders to Rhodes and—in larger numbers—to Tarpon Springs in Florida where a new and flourishing sponge-trade was built up by the emigre community. It is this community that has financed many of the recent public projects of the island including the newly surfaced road—‘Tarpon Springs Boulevard’—completed in 2005 from Emboreio all the way to the monastery of Aghios Ioannis. This road leads west from the port, past the attractive girls’ school building of 1914, to a rise at the edge of the town where it splits—right to Kania Bay (see below) and straight on to the interior of the island.
Chalki Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.