Dragons and pagoda tower: The mesmerising Perlov’s Tea House

October 13, 2020

The former Perlov’s Tea House, one of the most unusual buildings in Moscow, has been confirmed as a listed building, said Deputy Mayor Natalya Sergunina. The three-storey mansion in the pseudo-Chinese style is located at 19 Myasnitskaya Street. Experts made an inventory of all the architectural and decorative elements that define the look of the historical building, and its interiors. The mansion, built in the late 19th century, is a cultural heritage landmark of federal importance and is protected by the state.

“This wonderful building is an important part of the architecture of Myasnitskaya Street and Moscow in general. From now on, any restoration will have to comply with protected landmark regulations,” Natalya Sergunina said.

The mansion was built in 1890-1893 for merchant Sergei Perlov, the founder of the Sergei Vasilyevich Perlov & Co tea company. The ground floor hosted a tea shop, while the owner’s flat and rental properties were located on the first and second storeys. In 1896, the main facades and interiors were rebuilt in the pseudo-Chinese style.

“The décor of the facades, which was a gimmicky advertising trick at that time, continues to fascinate passers-by and customers. By the way, architect Roman Klein initially built the mansion in the late Renaissance style, and only later the façade was redesigned,” said Alexei Yemelyanov, Head of Moscow’s Department of Cultural Heritage.

The reason for such cardinal changes in the building interiors was the visit by Li Hongzhang, Grand Secretary of the imperial government of the Chinese Qing dynasty. He was going to attend Nicholas II’s coronation. Sergei Perlov wanted to impress the Chinese politician in order to strike deals on tea deliveries with him. The merchant decided to turn his mansion into a Chinese pagoda, a tiered tower with multiple eaves and colourful décor, and invited architect Karl Gippius for the purpose. It is not certain whether the Chinese diplomat saw the building, but the unusual look of the shop attracted numerous customers, making the building on Myasnitskaya Street the most popular tea place in Moscow.

The rich décor of the façade is especially mesmerising. The frontispiece is adorned with a three-tier tower resembling a pagoda, with small bells. The front wall is covered in moulded dragons, snakes, Chinese umbrellas and lanterns, as well as inscriptions “Tea,” “Sugar,” “Coffee,” “Chocolate,” “Cocoa” and “Fruit” written in a hieroglyph-like font. The décor has many sculptural details and ceramic tiles. These and other items have been granted heritage status.

The interiors of the shop have special value. These include the beamed ceiling with gilded patterns and murals, as well as lanterns and carved wooden elements: poles, wall pilasters and panels. Experts listed the interior features and furniture, for instance, two 1.5-metre-tall Chinese vases and glass cabinets that have been preserved since the opening of the shop.

Sergei Perlov (1835-1911) descended from a dynasty of Moscow tea merchants, the Perlovs. They were known since the early 18th century, when the founder, Ivan Mikhailov (1700-1759), was born. He did not have the surname Perlov at that time. In 1787, his son Alexei (1751-1813) began retail trade in tea, and this became the family business for several generations to come.

By the way, it was due to the Perlovs that tea became so popular not only among rich people, but also ordinary Muscovites. At the end of the 19th century, the Perlovs were appointed the suppliers of the Imperial court with the right to use the state emblem on their labels and the title of Imperial Court Supplier. They also supplied tea to the courts of Austria’s Emperor, the King of Romania, the King of Montenegro and the sovereign Duke of Nassau.

Sergei’s elder brother, Semyon, was also engaged in tea trade. His shop was located on Meshchanskaya Street. Semyon Perlov offered mass products, while the shop on Myasnitskaya Street catered mostly for the nobility and merchants. Tea was sold in colourful tin cans and porcelain jars, while honorary clients enjoyed it in crystal boxes.

After the revolution, the second and third storeys of the mansion hosted communal flats, and the shop was preserved, though renamed Tea Directorate. In the Soviet era, it sold sought-after tea and coffee varieties. By the end of the 20th century, the building got dilapidated and was restored in 2000-2001. Today, the building still hosts the tea shop.

The preservation and renovation of architectural landmarks in Moscow is the key area of work of the Department of Cultural Heritage. Since 2011, the department has restored some 1,500 cultural heritage landmarks, with 203 of them renovated in 2019.

Source: mos.ru

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