The white stone basement and the grand staircase: what is being restored in the Central House of Journalist

April 23

On April 18, the world celebrates the Day of Monuments and Historical Sites. Moscow, as a city with a rich architectural past, pays much attention to the preservation of its heritage. Since 2011, 1 578 historical sites have been restored in the capital, including 30 since the beginning of 2021.

Some of them can be appreciated not only from the outside, they are open to the public. So, last year, the restoration of the oldest cinema in the capital ‘Khudozhestvenny’ and the North River Terminal (Rechnoy Vokzal) was completed.

Today, in the center of Moscow, another cultural heritage site is being restored - the Central House of Journalists. Thanks to the phased work, the site continues to function and the House of Journalists is open to the public.

How the House of Journalists restoration is going and what is being restored in the historical building you can find in the material of

Almost Tricentennial History

The future House of Journalists was built no later than 1736 as a town mansion. Initially it was built as a stone one-storey building with a basement, in the middle of the XVIII century, the second floor was added, and in the first half of the XIX century - the third.

The last construction period in the history of this mansion is the most significant. At the insistence of the second- guild merchant, the calico king Alexander Pribylov, the house completely changes its appearance. The reconstruction increased the volume of the building and changed the appearance of the facades. The architect Alexander Vivien executed them in the eclectic style.

In 1920, the Press House, a club of Moscow journalists, was located here. Alexander Blok, Sergey Yesenin, Demyan Bedny and many other famous writers and poets gathered and spoke here, and Vladimir Mayakovsky was a member of the board. In 1925, Moscow bid farewell to Sergei Yesenin here. In 1938, the Press House was renamed the Central House of Journalists and under this name it is still known today.

In the First Place - the Facade

The House of Journalists meets city dwellers and tourists walking along the Bulvarnoye Koltso (Boulevard Ring) with an elegant facade exactly the same as the Muscovites of the XIX century knew it. In order to return the front part of the building to its historical appearance, in 2020, restoration work was carried out in the House of Journalists. Specialists were engaged not only in decorative elements: they have reassembled the brickwork and reinforced the damaged sections of the wall. In some places of brickwork there were no pilasters and cornices at all, its place was occupied by a layer of plaster in 10-15 centimeters.

Sergey Kupriyanov, the architect of the ‘Pyrit-99’ restoration workshop, says that the preserved decor was not dismantled. All architectural forms were cleaned and restored directly on the facade, and the missing elements were cast on the site according to the preserved samples. Specialists created the model, took a cast, cast a new part and installed it on the facade.

Photo by Maxim Denisov,

"The entire facade decor was covered with numerous layers of paint after previous repairs, starting from pre-revolutionary times. The restorers made a lot of effort to clear and not to damage the historical form. For example, on the second floor under the windows there is a decor in the form of garlands with three-dimensional flowers in full size. These flowers were broken off, some of them were lost. We used the preserved elements to make new parts and put them in place. Now the appearance corresponds fully to the idea of the architect Vivien", Sergey Kupriyanov emphasizes.

You can see what condition the facade was in before the restoration, not only in old photos. It is enough to go out into the courtyard of the former mansion: there visitors are waited for darkened paint and broken plaster. This is the facade of the late XIX century. Many details are missing on the window frames and the crowning cornice but they will be cast anew according to the preserved elements. However, the entire view of the piece of architectural will not work because the first floor of the mansion is blocked by a rough Soviet extension. According to the expert, it will be dismantled and a complete access will be opened to the facade restored.

"Until the middle of the XIX century, the main facade faced the courtyard in the direction of Kalashny Lane and only when the importance of the Bulvarnoye Koltso (Boulevard Ring) increased in Moscow the main facade was reoriented to Nikitsky Boulevard," the architect tells.

So that the idea of Alexander Vivien really did not suffer, the restorers did not miss a single detail. So, the white-stone basement with window lintels that have been preserved from the first construction period (the beginning of the XVIII century) was completely restored. Chemists-technologists conducted an analysis, established the strength of the white stone, its characteristics, and selected the necessary composition for restoring the lost shape.

The canopy over the main entrance will also be replaced. The new one is cast anew from cast iron according to photos and old drawings. It will be installed soon. The carpenter’s elements of the window and door openings were also replaced.

In addition, the workers carried out the restoration and reconstruction of the roof in the former Press House, changed the utilities.

According to the restorer, all types of work in the historic mansion are clearly specified in the permission received from the Department of Cultural Heritage of Moscow. It is impossible to do something "on your own".

"To get started, specialists conduct a comprehensive scientific study, then make a project that is coordinated in the Department of Cultural Heritage. We get permission only on the basis of the project agreed. There is an exact list of works and specific places of execution," Sergey Kupriyanov emphasizes.

Putti and the Secret Safe

The Domzhur ground floor became the keeper of history. Here, trough vaults hang low over the head. However, the basement was not always so dark, you can see the bricked up window openings on the wall. Sergey Kupriyanov hopes that during the work they will be able to open them and the ground floor will see the light again. The ground floor was transformed from a residential to a utility room in 1887 when a global reconstruction of the mansion took place. At that time, there were four stoves here that heated the entire house.

However, the specialists focused on the interiors of the enfilade halls on the second floor facing the main facade. The Large State-Room, Marble (Oval) and Fireplace Halls, Blue and Pink Living Rooms (all of them are also the creations of Alexander Vivien) are waiting for their turn to be restored. Even the most modest room has a luxurious decor: it is not difficult to imagine how the polite society of pre-revolutionary Moscow gathered here.

Each room has its own special decor. For example, the walls of the Oval Hall are entirely decorated with artificial marble, and from the ceiling of the Pink Living Room, fun putti look at visitors (images of baby boys, sometimes winged cupids, a popular decorative motif of the Renaissance. - Note The main attraction of the Fireplace Room had become a safe found during the clearing the room. It is not known when it was installed: this could happen under the merchant Pribylov and in the days of the Press House existence. The safe was opened, of course, but it was empty.

According to the restorer, during the research, the specialists were able to establish the original color of the paint on the walls and find a gold glare that emphasized the stucco shape. Previously, it was not visible under a layer of paint.

"The Large State-Room and Marble Hall have not yet been restored. But we already know that the work is serious: numerous cracks, chips, lost polishing on artificial marble. In fact, it will be more difficult than the facade restoration. If we actually have only plaster and paint on the facades, then here, the restoration of artificial marble, clearing of stucco, work on gilding, painting and finishing is required," Sergey Kupriyanov notes.

Grand Staircase

The door portals of the Large State-Room are decorated with stucco decor and wood carvings, lead visitors to one of the Domzhur’s main showplaces - the grand staircase. It describes more eloquently than any words how the object will look like after the restoration. According to the plans, all work in the House of Journalists should be completed by the end of 2021.

The noble gilding gives the stucco decoration a great expressiveness. The color range of the ceiling light has been restored. And the steps of the grand staircase made of natural marble are complemented by the finishing of the walls with artificial marble of a soft blue color.

Restorer Grigory Shleg says that working with marble is not easy. The material, like a sponge, eventually absorbs dust, dirt and water, which it is washed with. Therefore, before starting work, the staircase was thoroughly examined: we looked at its condition, selected the color and composition of the restoration material.

No less laborious was the work on the restoration of artificial marble.

"First we come, remove the wax, see if it is necessary to remove the previous restoration and numerous seals, sometimes the defects are simply covered with cement. We check the places where the gypsum or plaster is peeling off: we fill the opened cracks with a special composition and do not touch the dense ones. We select the color according to the palette like artists, and then polish it with special bars, in professional slang, we call them ‘oselok’ (touchstone). Therefore, this method of finishing is called ‘oselkovy artificial marble’. In the future, we cover all this with wax that we cook ourselves according to old technologies with the addition of rosin, turpentine, beeswax," Grigory Shleg adds.

According to him, at each site, restorers use the techniques that were used by builders centuries ago. "In principle, everything is the same, only the tools have changed. They have become more modern," the restorer notes.

Photo by Maxim Denisov,

To complete the composition of the grand staircase, only two marble pedestals, balusters and handrails are required. During the previous restoration in 1985, these elements were lost, and at that time they were made from cheaper alabaster. To recreate the historical accuracy, the specialists worked on drawings and old photographs. All the lost marble parts were re-made in workshops. Now all the marble elements of the architectural decor are ready, they just need to be installed.


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