Tretyakov brothers’ revenue house: Changes in the historical building over time

January 11

The Tretyakov brothers’ revenue house, located in the heart of Moscow, is almost 130 years old. Over this time, its interiors and rooms have been used for many different purposes. Once the Russky Vestnik magazine was published there; later there were shops, banks and an antique shop. During the Soviet era, it hosted a prosecutor’s office and then once again, a magazine publisher. Today, the building has been returned to its historical appearance. Experts have restored its interior using 19th century blueprints.

Printing house and medical offices

In the middle of the 18th century, there were stone living chambers at the intersection of Rozhdestvenka and Kuznetsky Most streets, which partly belonged to the families of Volynsky and Vorontsov and later to the Beketov family, headed by Platon Beketov, a famous Russian publisher. He set up a printing house there and published Denis Fonvizin, Alexander Radishchev, and Vasily Zhukovsky among many others.

The building survived Napoleon’s invasion as anatomical offices of the Moscow Medical and Surgical Academy. A legend has it that Stendhal stayed in one of its houses in 1812.At that time, he was not yet a writer, but an officer with the French army intendancy who participated in the Napoleonic campaign. In the middle of the 19th century, the academy moved to St Petersburg, and the buildings housed Moscow University clinics where the famous surgeon Nikolai Sklifosofsky used to work.

Bank, stores and an antique shop

In 1891, the plot was bought by the Tretyakov brothers, philanthropist traders. Their brother-in-law, Alexander Kaminsky, was an architect and designer of the first Tretyakov Gallery building. In place of the stone chambers, Kaminsky built a house with Russian-style facades, peaked roofs and openwork gratings. The purpose of the building was determined in advance: a revenue house.

Renovator and engineer Andrei Filippov, who has been studying the history of the building and its architecture, says that its interiors were in contrast with the façade.

 “They were made in the Renaissance and Baroque architectural style. The floors in the front rooms were covered with parquet and mosaic, the walls were decorated with rustication, wooden panels and panels made of artificial marble, and the ceilings were adorned with stucco,” the expert notes.

Back then, Kuznetsky Most Street was known as the most French street in Moscow, because there were a lot of French shops there. Traders had to keep their profits somewhere, so the right-hand side of the building hosted Lyon Credit bank. Back then it was the only foreign institution that the Russian government allowed to carry out financial transactions. A door with Baroque carving and inscription “Departments of special current accounts, letters of credit and fireproof cabinets” has survived until today.

Another part of the building was occupied by the shop of the Jean Blok Association, which sold various machines, and the shop of the Vl. Gostynsky and Co joint-stock partnership of the iron products factory. It also hosted the Moscow Ski Club.

In the basement of the revenue house, there were storage rooms belonging to the shops and the bank as well as the caretaker’s lodge and administrative rooms. And Lyon Credit’s safes were protected in an unusual manner.

 “According to a legend, the building’s architect Kaminsky designed a unique system to protect the bank vaults: safe deposit boxes there were hermetically sealed, and at the end of the working day, the vaults were closed and flooded overnight. Special tanks were dug to flood them and drain water into the Neglinka,” says Andrei Filippov.

According to Filippov, the first floor was occupied by offices and administrative rooms and the second by apartments. It is known that famous Moscow photographers Karl Fisher and Alexander Eichenwald lived there for a long time.

In 1908, the Jean Blok Association moved to Myasnitsakya Street and the free rooms were occupied by Iosif Daciaro’s art boutique. Enormous showcases were made for the boutique, where copies, paintings, postcards, prints, drawing supplies and much more were exhibited daily.

Prosecutor’s office and hairdressing salon

After the 1917 revolution, private property was nationalised, Lyon Credit stopped its operations in Russia and the shops shut down. The building now hosted the People’s Commissariat of Justice.

In 1925–1926, the building was repaired to make the rooms suitable for the commissariat: old partitions were dismantled and new ones installed and new door and window openings were made. At one time, the editorial offices of the Octyabr and ROST magazines worked there next to the commissariat.

In the second half of the last century, the former revenue house accommodated a prosecutor’s office and in the last years of the Soviet era, a hairdressing salon. At the end of the 20th century, it became the seat of the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office.

 “By this time, the condition of the building had deteriorated. The facades had never been cleaned, not in the slightest; roof leaks began, and the crown cornice was destroyed. During numerous minor repairs, the original interior layout was distorted and the artistic decoration of the interior suffered greatly: the mosaic floors were poured with concrete, and the stuccos were broken down,” says Andrei Filippov.

The freezing of the walls, a sauna in the basement in the 1990s and lack of ventilation caused damage to the building materials and numerous cracks.

Bank again and modern office space

In 2007, with the support of the Moscow Cultural Heritage Department, it was decided to begin the historical renovation project that was completed four years later.

Experts strengthened the foundations of the building and walls, repaired brickwork and waterproofed the basement. The facades were restored to their original appearance with all the features of the original design, according to Kaminsky's drawings. The openwork lattice of the roof fences was restored. The original intricate steel gate in the passage arch was also reinstated, and the front door towards the rear side was recreated according to the author’s drawings.

Inside the building, fragments of original mosaic floor with elements featuring floral patterns were discovered. Separate pieces were used to create a section of the floor covering 16 sq m assembled in the foyer. They were used as the basis for the renovation of the rest of the floors.

Oak panels in the rooms of the Lyon Credit Bank were recreated from the surviving fragments, and the old wallpaper was replaced with decorative tapestry wallpaper produced on antique wooden tablets at the Zuber factory in Lyon using a traditional technique. In addition, the oak doors and the main cast iron staircase with natural marble railings were restored.

 “During the renovation, experts discovered that the chandeliers, hanging in the foyer of the former bank back then, are as old the building itself. They were not part of the original interior though, because they do not correspond to the size of the room. They were installed when the building hosted the RSFSR Prosecutor’s Office; moreover, experts date one of the chandeliers to 1892 and say it was probably designed by an outstanding architect, Leon Benois,” says Andrei Filippov.

After the renovation, lighting equipment was installed in the rooms that once contained Iosif Daciaro’s antique shop.

Once the renovation was complete, the building regained its historical appearance. Until recently it hosted a bank, just as it did more than a hundred years ago, but today the office and shop spaces are waiting for new tenants.


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