Tampakaria was the area which housed the tanning factories. It was developed in the east part of Chania, far away from the city walls, around the mid 19th century. However, there are accounts that Tanneries existed in Chania since the 18th century.
According to official Arabic documents, the principle facility for this industry was built in this area during the period of the Egyptian Occupation (1830-40).
The choice of the area was not at all by chance: it is at the same time away from the city but accessible to it, the location has an abundance of underground brackish water and it is next to a shallow part of the sea – something that is very useful during the early stages of the tanning process. Originally the installations were located on the coastal side of Vivilaki Street but were later (after 1920) expanded further east to Agia Kiriaki.
The war years saw Tampakaria at its peak. During the period of the German occupation the factories ceased to function. Afterwards, however, new machinery replaced old methods and modernization made the industry more efficient and profitable. A significant portion of the turnover was due to exports.
The decline began in the 70's and continued so that today only about a tenth of the original businesses exist. Buildings and shells of buildings remain, some of them still housing the equipment. They serve as a monument to industrial archeology. Today, many of tanneries are abandoned, some have a new purpose and only a few continue to function.
The only thing that hasn't changed with the passing of the years is the architecture of the tanneries. Built into the natural slopes of the landscape, the tanneries were ground level on the side facing the road and two or three levels on the side facing the sea. They were built from stone and had clay tile roofs. They were built side-by-side and a steep stairway leads to the sea.
In its entirety, it is a unique specimen of architecture worth seeing up close.
Address: Vivilaki & Agia Kyriaki