There are many different buildings and places hidden from the eyes of tourists and even locals in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Demidov family estate is one of these, despite being located in the very center of this large city at the intersection of the Moika River and Grivtsov Lane.
The incredibly beautiful house and its abandoned garden are hidden behind neighboring houses, so even the roof is not visible from the street.
In the 18th century, the Moika River was located on the border of the city, so at that time people could buy land there. Now the Moika River is at the center of St. Petersburg.
The Demidov family dynasty became famous throughout Russia during the time of Peter the Great for its wealth and love of engineering innovations. In 1702, Nikita Demidov, a blacksmith from Tula, Russia, went to the Urals to develop ferrous metallurgy. It was there that he managed to successfully build a business and make his family wealthy.
In recognition of his developments in the sphere of metallurgy, he was granted a noble title.
The now-abandoned manor was built by Nikita Demidov’s grandson – Grigory Demidov (1715-1761) in 1759. A genuine architectural masterpiece with a delightful staircase leading directly into the garden, the family home was designed by the architect Savva Chevakinsky.
The manor was built in a classical style with baroque elements such as Ionic columns with four-sided capitals and bas-reliefs with female and male faces. One legend says that the faces on the bas-reliefs were based on the faces of the real members of the Demidov family.
The cast-iron grille of the veranda with curved iron stairs is a masterpiece of foundry art, particularly as such details were often made of wood in the 18th century. Two innovations remained in the estate: it was the first place in the Russian Empire to have an earthen bowling alley with nine pins, and that same porch with a unique staircase.
Demidov often held literary and theatrical gatherings in his mansion. Architects, artists, and writers regularly used to gather at the house.
The estate was also home to several generations of the family. Grigory Demidov had three sons and eight daughters. With such a large family, it was natural that the estate would expand over the years. Two buildings appeared nearby on Meshchanskaya Street.
However, by 1930, the famous Demidov clan began to fade. A decision was made to lease the main building of the estate to the English Club, and in 1862 the classes of the recently opened St. Petersburg Conservatory occupied one of the wings.
This site was owned by the family until 1870 when Gregory, the last Demidov and the great-great-great-grandson of the founder of the dynasty, passed away.
In Soviet times, an engineering bureau was located in the building. A short while later, it was transformed into the Iceberg Central Design Bureau for the development of atomic icebreakers. Eventually, the ICDB moved to another site, and the manor became abandoned.
Currently, the modern buildings of the Moika embankment completely conceal the building. The facade has cracked, the veranda has become rusty, and the apple orchard is barren. The estate of Demidov is now owned by a commercial organization.
The Demidov manor is closed, making it quite difficult to get inside for anyone wanting to view such grand architecture.
Big thank you to Evgeny Mironenko and his LiveJournal blog for providing such amazing photos! You should check out his pages. Enjoy!
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