The publication of this book is something of an innovation. It is not just another guide for visitors to Ermoupoli: it is addressed to readers who whish to see things in greater depth, it takes them on a trip through the material and intellectual traces of this island's long history.
Let it also be said that this book, which, in its editions in various languages, is enhanced with information and embellished with illustrations, is a prestigious envoy for Syros on the international cultural scene.
Ermoupoli had the fortune to be founded in the heart of an area famed for its tradition in the skills of building. Dressed stone and skifully-worked marble were the specialty of the masons -most of them from Tinos or Andros- who worked in teams after striking a bargain with the owner of the new house. In the end, quite a few of these craftsmen settled in Ermoupoli. Some of the empirical master-craftsmen became building contractors -"masons", they called themselves. The best-known of them were N. Ieronymos, A. Vidalis, M. Sariyannis from Smyrna and his sons, I. Theodoridis, I. Fitalis of Tinos, Petros Vamvakas - and above all Hadzigeorgios Grekas of Kea, who began his career as a carpenter. The marble for the houses also came from Tinos, and from Paros.
There is no doubt, however, that Ermoupoli owes a great debt to its architects and engineers, whether Greeks or foreigners. It is some indication of the significance of the town that many of the most important engineers who worked in Greece during the nineteenth century carried out projects in Ermoupoli.
The first engineers, who dealt mainly with public works projects, were members of the circle close to King Othon or Bavarian officers of the Engineer Corps. They included the German architect Johann B. Erlacher and Captain Wilhelm von Weiler, an engineer. Erlacher, who had studied architecture at the Munich Academy, worked as "royal architect" in Ermoupoli in 1835-1836 and served as architect to the Municipality in 1845-1847. He mad a decisive contribution to formulating the style of the local architecture, and he also trained the craftsmen he employed. Erlacher pioneered the use of pozzolana for contruction purposes. From 1837 to 1842, Weiler was engaged on the preparation of the town plan (a task in which he was succeeded by the German architect Lauent). During the first phase of application of the plan. Weiler was assisted by the empirical architect Antonios Tzalikis of Mytilene.
After 1843, the foreigners were dismissed from the civil service and replaced by Greeks. Gerasimos Metaxas (church of St Nicholas, p. 103), Alexandros Georgantas (the Customs House, p. 35) and Nikolaos Soutsos were among the officers of the Cyclades Engineering Corps who worked in Ermoupoli.