The street as an exhibit. Walking around Ostozhenka street

September 2

A Sunday walk along the streets in the city center easily turns into a cultural trip. Facades of old buildings can be studied as interesting museum exhibits, the main thing is to be equipped with knowledge. Read about the past of Ostozhenka street and legends associated with its mansions and apartment buildings in the article.

Tenement building of merchant Ya.M.   Filatov: “under a glass”

3/14 Ostozhenka street, building 1

The roof shape on the corner bay window turret gave this building an unofficial name — the house “under the glass”. An unusual tenement building was constructed by Valentin Dubovsky in 1907-1909 for merchant Yakov Filatov. The architect liked to combine Art Nouveau style with elements of Gothic and Romanesque motives in his works. After the revolution, there were communal apartments in the house that were converted into ordinary apartments by the end of last century. 

Photo by Yevgeny Samarin,

There are several explanations for the meaning of the upside-down glass on the roof of Filatov's house. According to one of the versions, it symbolizes an important event in the owner’s life, who allegedly liked to drink, but could get rid of the addiction. According to another legend, the merchant's father promised to give him a house as a gift if he stopped drinking. It is quite possible, however, that the glass is nothing more than a marketing ploy. The beginning of the 20th century saw a kind of competition among tenement buildings in terms of having a certain peculiarity in appearance. Once the Moscow Weekly newspaper published an unflattering article about the house “under a glass”.

“Each new year gives Moscow several dozen new, monstrously ridiculous buildings that place themselves into city streets with some special, Moscow-like boldness. Well, where else can you find something like a new house at the beginning of Ostozhenka!.. “

Some architectural historians believe that in fact this is not a glass, but a bowl wherefrom inhabitants of the underwater kingdom spread along the walls: sea monsters and algae, shells and undines, fish and squid. Taking into account the architect's love for medieval Gothic, one can see a semblance of a castle with a pointed turret in this building.

Kekusheva's mansion at Ostozhenka: the gothic house of Margarita

21 Ostozhenka street, building 1

Continuing the Gothic theme, we are moving on to the Kekusheva’s mansion. The three-story building constructed by Lev Kekushev, resembles a medieval castle due to a faceted turret with a high tent and a basement made of granite. The walls are covered with pink ceramic tiles that are in contrast with the plastered surfaces framing windows of varying sizes. The building is decorated with stucco flowers and leaves, there is a stucco in the form of eagles on the tower, and on the pediment of the street facade there is a three-meter figure of a lion — Kekushev placed the image of this animal on many of his buildings. The lion was probably originally made of plaster; it did not survived. The lion made of copper was placed on the building in 2017.

Lev Kekushev built the mansion for his family in 1903 and registered it in the name of his wife. The building was constructed according to the drawings that the architect prepared for Savva Mamontov. However, the patron of arts went bankrupt, and the building could not be constructed. Kekushev did not live in the mansion for long — he separated with his wife and sold the house in 1906. After the revolution, the building was taken over by the Central Bureau for Foreigners.

Some fans and researchers of the novel “The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov believe that it was there that the main character lived. The Liszt mansion in Glazovsky Lane is mentioned as well among probable Margarita’s addresses, it was also built after Kekushev’s project. The writer indicated the heroine's place of residence indefinitely:

“Margarita Nikolaevna and her husband occupied the entire top of a beautiful mansion in a garden in one of the lanes near the Arbat street. A charming place!”

House of Varvarinsky joint stock company of homeowners: lion and angels

7 Ostozhenka street, building 1

Another building found in the novel “The Master and Margarita” is a huge tenement building at the corner of Pozharsky Lane. The novel mentions the house in the chapter “The Pursuit” — poet Bezdomny comes here while pursuing Woland. Bulgakov often visited this place: his friend, philologist Nikolai Lyamin, lived in one of the apartments.

“The hall was a vast extremely neglected room feebly lit by a tiny electric light that dangled in one corner from a ceiling black with dirt. On the wall hung a bicycle without any tires, beneath it a huge iron-banded trunk. On the shelf over the coat-rack was a winter fur hat, its long earflaps untied and hanging down.”

Photo by Yevgeny Samarin,

The main architectural detail of the house is two rows of bay windows located on both sides of the facade. The central part of the house is slightly protruded, at the level of the fourth and fifth floors there is an arched niche on bearing columns with a balcony decorated with a lattice. There is a mascaron under it, the arch is decorated with stucco molding in the form of a lion's head and flowers. Windows of the balconies above the bay windows, are framed by bas-reliefs in the form of women figures, and there are angels holding the coat of arms above.

The house was built in 1898 by architect Alexander Ivanov for the Varvarinsky joint-stock company of homeowners. It was one of the first companies in Moscow for construction and acquisition of real estate. At various times, engineer Vladimir Shukhov, professor of Moscow University Alexei Abrikosov, biologist and founder of experimental biology in Russia and the USSR Nikolai Koltsov lived here.

The house where Ivan Turgenev lived: Mumu's house

37/7 Ostozhenka street, building 1

The mansion, where the House-Museum of Ivan Turgenev is now located, became the prototype for the house of a lady from the story “Mumu”. In fact, his mother, Varvara Turgeneva, nee born Lutovinova, lived here. She was a severe and imperious woman, they did not get along with Turgenev. Once Varvara Petrovna broke the portrait of her son in a furious quarrel. Today the broken portrait is one of the exhibits of the writer's museum opened after a large-scale restoration in 2018.

The one-story Empire style mansion with a six-column portico, mezzanines, seven windows on the facade is a typical example of Moscow post-fire buildings. It was erected in 1818-1819 by an unknown architect for titular counsellor Fedorov.

Tenement building of G. E. Broido: chamois and water lilies

20 Ostozhenka street

One of the most unusual houses at Ostozhenka street (and, probably, in Moscow) is the Broido tenement house. The most remarkable part of the building is the sculptural frieze depicting chamois between flowers against a background of mountains and a flock of flying birds. This theme is not found on any other Moscow building. It is worth taking a closer look at the house at sunset: lighted in a certain way, the chamois figures become more voluminous — it seems as if they are about to start moving.

Attention should be also paid to the Art Nouveau style metal brackets supporting the protruding cornice, and the metal canopy top above the main entrance. In the center of the façade, there is a huge stained glass window covering three floors. Above it there is an attic with a stucco molding in the form of plants resembling water lilies. The balconies are decorated with wrought iron ornamental swirls and a whip blow. The window frames at the corner of the building have specific modern curved lines.

The house was built by order of Moscow developer Herman Broido and his wife, who bought land plots to erected buildings for sale. The project was the first experience of architect Nikolai Zherikhov who subsequently built several dozen tenement houses.


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