Street like an exhibition. Houses on the Arbat visited by Alexander Pushkin and Leo Tolstoy

November 27, 2021

In the XVIII century, the Arbat was inhabited by famous Moscow aristocrats — Tolstoys, Gagarins, Trubetskoys, Sheremetevs. In 1808, the Arbat Theater was opened here — the news about the beginning of its construction was acclaimed enthusiastically. "This idea is good, because most of the noble families live on or near the Arbat," wrote memoirist and passionate theater-goer Stepan Zhikharev

By the end of the XIX century, the Arbat was inhabited by a intelligentsia belonging to different social classes, and the street itself had a look similar to the modern one. It was noisy and crowded on the Arbat, there were a lot of shops, confectioners and restaurateurs tried to relocate here. The street retained this character even after 1917, which made its own changes: for example, in the building of the popular before the revolution Prague tavern, the Mosselprom canteen sung in verse by Vladimir Mayakovsky was opened.

The Arbat became pedestrian in 1986 and has remained one of the most popular places for walking in the capital ever since. Almost every house here keeps amazing stories.

Filatova’s Tenement Building

Arbat Street, house 35

The building resembling a medieval fortress was erected in 1913-1914 by Valentin Dubovsky for the wife of merchant Yakov Filatov. Earlier, on Ostozhenka, the architect built for him the famous house in Moscow ‘under the wine glass’. In both buildings there are features of Neo-Gothic, beloved by Dubovsky. He decorated Anna Filatova's house with statues of knights and bay windows that change into towers. It is believed that Mikhail Bulgakov described one of the knights in his work "The Master and Margarita" — Koroviev-Fagot appears in his appearance in one of the final scenes. And in this house Bulgakov settled the critic Latunsky — it is here that the enraged Margarita arrives to take revenge on the offender of her beloved Master.

"Her attention was attracted by the magnificent hulk of an eight-storeyed, obviously just-constructed building at the end of it. Margarita dropped down and, alighting, saw that the facade of the building was covered in black marble, that the doors were wide, that behind their glass could be glimpsed a doorman's buttons and peaked cap with gold braid: "The House of Drumlit” <...> Rising higher in the air, she eagerly began to read the surnames: Khustov, Dvubratsky, Kvant, Beskudnikov, Brusovsky...".

Mikhail Bulgakov

The writer has increased the number of floors in the house — in fact there are seven. This is not surprising: the Filatova’s House became one of the tallest buildings in Moscow of its time. The house was intended for wealthy citizens: multi-room apartments, marble stairs with oak railings, stained glass windows and even elevators with mirrors and leather seats. Before the October Revolution of 1917, the ground floor housed the Maria Sats Women's Gymnasium and one of the most expensive kindergartens in Moscow.

In Soviet times, large apartments became communal apartments, the dwellers of which were settled apart only in 1975, after which the house was handed over to the Ministry of Culture of the USSR. Since 1990 and to this day, the Central House of Artists has been located in the building.

Ya.M. Tolstoy’s Tenement Building

Arbat Street, house 29

The tenement building with a hotel was built by Nikita Lazarev in 1904-1906 for Yakov Tolstoy, who belonged to the old noble family of Tolstoys. The building became the last hotel in Moscow decorated in the Art Nouveau style.

In 1912-1913, another floor was added to the building. The building facade is symmetrical, the central avant-corps (the protruding part of the building) rhymes with two side ones, and is also combined with white window frames. At the level of the third floor, it is decorated with a female mascaron and stucco molding in the form of an ornament of chestnut leaves, which stretches over the windows across the entire facade. The avant-corps is crowned with attic (the wall above the cornice) with a dormer window, framed by a garland of curls of ribbons and flowers. On the side risalites, the pattern of balcony grilles resembles the floral ornament of the first Paris metro stations.

Six of the 14 apartments were occupied by the family of the owner of the house. The ground floor was intended for shops. The building had a back-door entrance leading to a garden with a fountain where goldfish swam in summer. Famous personalities lived in this tenement building, among whom was Vladimir Lossky — an opera singer, soloist and director of the Bolshoi Theater.

Khromova’s, Obukhov’s Tenement Building

Arbat Street, house 55/32

The tenement building was built on the manor house place in the 1870s by the architect Mitrofan Arsenyev for the noblewoman Maria Khromova. The ground floor was intended for shops, and the other two were for rent. As soon as the building was finished, the owner sold it to a private associate professor of Moscow University, Nikolai Rakhmanov. Perhaps this determined the contingent of tenants — the house was inhabited by professors and other representatives of the intelligentsia. Among them was the family of mathematics professor Nikolai Bugaev — they occupied apartment number seven. Writer Leo Tolstoy and composer Sergey Taneyev often visited this apartment.

L. Bakst. Portrait of A. Bely. 1905

It was here that Boris Bugaev, who became famous as the poet Andrei Bely, was born and lived for 26 years. In his apartment in 1903 there was Argonauts literary circle, which included symbolist poets. Konstantin Balmont, Valery Bryusov, Maximilian Voloshin and other writers visited Bely. Later, the apartment was transformed into museum.

The poet wrote about his house: "... white, balconied, decorated with molded cornices, raised by a round likeness of a tower: three storeys." The corner tower, which Bely writes about, disappeared in Soviet times, when the fourth floor was added on.

The Main building of the R. Turgenev’s City Manor House

Arbat Street, house 44

Until 1812, there was a building on the current house No. 44 place, with which the names of two famous writers of the XIX century are associated — albeit indirectly. Built in the XVIII century for the great-grandfather of the writer Ivan Turgenev — the military and statesman Roman Turgenev — later it belonged to the grandmother of Fyodor Tyutchev.

From this house, the one that we can see today, the foundation and walls survived. It was rebuilt after the fire. At the end of the XIX century, its facade was decorated in the Baroque style. Some elements, such as stucco in the form of wreaths and interspersed windows pilasters, have survived to this day.

In the 1830s, the Kikins family lived here. Alexander Pushkin stayed with them. In his youth, the poet courted Elizabeth Ushakova, who owned this house in 1868-1872, and even thought of marrying her.

E. Ushakov. Drawing by A. Pushkin

Before the October Revolution, the Moscow Dental School was located in the building. Pavel Dauge, a doctor who later became one of the founders of dentistry in the USSR, worked there. In 1920, the Department of Dentistry of the Medical Faculty of Moscow University was opened on the basis of the school. In 1922, the writer Sigismund Krzhizhanovsky lived in the house, and in the 1960s — the poet Nikolai Glazkov.

The Building of the Vakhtangov State Academic Theater

Arbat Street, house 26/2

In 1921, the Third Moscow Art Theater Studio began operating here, which later became the Yevgeny Vakhtangov State Theater. The theater, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, started in the rebuilt former mansion of industrialist Vasily Berg — the auditorium for only 150 people was arranged in the living room. The building was gradually rebuilt, the audience space was expanded significantly. At that time it looked different — its facade was decorated in the style of constructivism.

In July 1941, a bomb hit the building, having destroed most of it. The restoration was entrusted to the architect Pavel Ambrosimov. He designed the building in the style of the Stalinist Empire — the hallmark of the theater were pilasters in full height covered with narrow vertical grooves —cannelures. On the sides there are huge columns supporting a massive entablature — the upper spandrel beam. The theater opened its doors again in 1947.

The Berg mansion, from which the life of the theater on the Arbat began, was built in 1873 according to the project of the famous architect Alexander Kaminsky. More precisely, it was rebuilt from an older house that belonged to Vasily Sabashnikov. Here the publishing work of his sons Mikhail and Sergei began, whose books were especially loved by bibliophiles.


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