Bolshaya and Malaya Morskaya (Great and Little Naval) streets located in the very centre of the city attract attention of architecture-lovers over and over again. In spite of the fact that buildings situated in these and adjoining streets do not represent any unified ensemble because of difference in their styles, ages and used materials, nevertheless, being observed all together, they compose the specific harmony. In many respects such congruousness results from a great deal of stone decoration that often completely covers facades of buildings where former banks and joint-stock companies were housed lately in the XIX-th – early in the XX-th centuries. There are also mansions and other old edifices in these streets facades of which were built with the use of stone. As a rule, stone for decoration was brought from diverse places.
Oldest edifices constructed as early as the XVIII-th century are characterized by modest, stone decoration. Only in the first part of the XIX-th century several private mansions richly embellished with marble was built in Great Naval street. One of them (N 43) was erected to the design of Au.Montferrand in 1836 for the owner of factories, millionare P.N.Demidov who was also in possession of the Medno-Rudyansk malachite mine among others. The base of the house is faced with polished Serdobol Granite and the ground floor is finished with rustics of white Italian marble. The marble slab surface was worked up in the original manner, so that it was speckled with rare small holes of round or elongated forms. Such a technique of finish made smooth stone to look like porous tuff. Carved of white marble are six germae with male and female half-figures propping up a marble balcony of the first floor. The marble bas-relief group “Glory” created after a model of the sculptor T.Jacquot is fixed above the balcony in the centre of the facade. We can see here a cartouche with a cross and crown cut out instead of a coat of arms of a former owner when in 1911 the building lapsed to the Italian embassy. On each side of the gate there are two niches for fountains. The niches are lined with slabs of white polished marble. Nowadays they are empty while graceful cast-iron pillars embellished with little figures of Cupids were previously standing there.
Splendour of decoration of the mansion interior struck contemporaries. Gilded bronze, stucco moulding, murals and ceiling painting, various kinds of coloured stones were used for the decoration. Of particular interest was the Big Hall with columns and pilasters made of malachite. It was a precursor of the well known Malachite Hall in the Winter Palace. Unfortunately the malachite decor has not survived.
Adjacent to Demidov’s house the edifice built by Au.Montferrand in 1840 and possessed by V.F.Gagarina (N 45) is located. The asymmetrical facade of the mansion is decorated with a large open balcony adorned with four marble busts wrecked rather considerably at present.
Since the 1840-s a start had been made in St.Petersburg on construction of brick houses without plastering; that mode imitated architecture of the North Italian Renaissance. Two monumental edifces in Great Naval Street: the Horse Guard Regiment Barracks (N 67) and Barracks of the Naval Crew (N 69) were built after the manner of such a “brick renaissance” in the second half of the XIX-th century. Ground floors and portals of both the buildings are faced with fine deep-pink rapakivi-granite that shows very coarse-grained porphyroid texture.
In the same style the house at N 11 in Little Naval Street was erected by the architect V.A.Schreter for the former chandlery firm “Stol and Smith” in 1881. The basement of the building is faced with slabs of grey-pink rapakivi-granite, while carved details of the intricate ornament decorating simple brick walls were cut of the yellowish-grey Wasalemma Marble.
Rich and complex decoration of stone is shown by the house at N 22 in Great Naval Street. The Radom two-coloured Sandstone was used for its facing. The ground floor is faced with red sandstone worked up in different manners. One can see the stone surfaces that are either roughly uneven, or wavy (fluted, or corrugated), or speckled with small points. The upper storeys are faced with grey sandstone. The same stone was used for carving of ornaments over the windows, complex garlands disposed on each side of the big window of the clock-tower and the emblem (coat of arms) of Petersburg that represents a crossed sceptre and two anchors: one of which is marine (with 2 flukes) and another – riverine (with 4 flukes). The stone ornaments were complemented with small details of ceramics.
Coloured sandstones were applied for cladding of the house at N 32 in Great Naval Street. This building intended for the Russian Foreign Trade Bank was erected in 1877-1888 to the design of the outstanding Petersburg’s architect V.A.Shreter who put in practice Württemberg Sandstone for the decoration of the facades. Both the socle floor and high, carved portal with two columns were faced with slabs of red sandstone. The first floor was finished with rustication of green sandstone. The two upper storeys are cased with yellow sandstone and united with Corinthian pilasters cut from the yellow sandstone as well. The stone decor is complemented with complex ornamental details made of ceramics. Unfortunately the surface of slabs of red sandstone at the bottom of the edifice peels and crumbles into small pieces, while the light facing of the upper storeys has become so dirty that the difference in colour of the yellow and green sandstones is barely perceptible.
The casing of the house at N 40 in Great Naval Street is also made of sandstone. It is the former building of the First Russian Insurance Company erected in 1889-1901 after the project by L.N.Benois who was one of leading Petersburg’s architects of his day. The basement of the building is finished with well-polished pink-red Valaam Granite having very heterogeneous, spotted, or banded structure and turning in places into gneissoid granite. The upper storeys are faced with pink and yellow Radom Sandstones and covered with a complex ornament carved of light-grey sandstone.
Appearing smart is the former house of Nabokovs (N 47 in Great Naval Street) the ground storey of which is faced with red Radom Sandstone and the upper storeys are faced with grey sandstone. Here, it is possible to make out that the red sandstone consists not only of grains of quartz coloured red because of presence of films of hematite, but also of thin flakes of sericite that is mica having pink colour too. The facing slabs of sandstone are finished in such a way that some of them are smooth while others have rocky surfaces. Outside window-frames of the first storey are cut of red sandstone and stand out sharply against the grey background of the walls. Garlands carved of sandstone and a mosaic frieze of majolica that depicts red tulips and light-blue lilies against a golden background embellish the top of the building facade.
Architects of that time frequently chose dark-grey homogenious granite for decor of rich building that presented optical sensation of reliability and firmness of constructions. Thus, amongst monumental edifices faced just with grey granite especially prominent is the building of the former Azov-Don Trading Bank (NN 3-5, Great Naval St.) erected in 1907-1910 by the architect F.I.Lidval in Modern style predominant at that time. The building has an asymmetrical facade typical for this style. It is decored with four columns fluted at the bottom and with six pilasters. Of particular interest are oval medallions fixed between windows of the third floor and stylized multifigured bas-reliefs by the sculptor V.V.Kuznetsov that are arranged on the level of the ground floor.The contemporaries spoke of that building with admiration and considered it to be one of the best constructions “winning by its oneness with the street, general proportionality of the parts and excellently traced details”.*
As it is usually claimed, the granite for facing of the bank facade was quarried out at the deposit Kovantsaary (Vozrozhdeniye station). However it looks nothing like the stone currently exploited near the station Vozrozhdeniye and comprises a homogenious fine-grained rock composed mainly of grey feldspar, to a lesser degree - of quartz. Some granitic slabs situated in the centre of the socle floor demonstrate a banded-foliated structure. The bands are slightly flexed or folded. For sculptural depictions a homogeneous fine-grained dark-grey granite without any banding was used.
* (Ol’ A.A.) Fyodor Lidval’: Album of photos with an introductory article. St.Petersburg, 1914, p.13.
The main entrance to the bank is decored outside with glassy-polished, motley-banded, white-black stone. Its mineralogical composition is characterized by predominent grey plagioclase, dark mica and quartz occuring in less quantities. This so effective when polished rock is assigned to plagiogneisses that are of metamorphic origin. It means they had been generated at high temperatures and pressures. For decoration of interiors of the Azov-Don Bank green and brownish-green marbles were applied. They are most likely to be brought from deposits developed abroad.
Grey Nystad Granite was used for the entire facing of the majestic edifice of the former Russian Traiding and Industrial Bank (N 15, Great Naval St.) built to the design of M.M.Peretyatkovich. Blocks of the granite have “rocky” or pointed surface structure. Key-stones of windows of the second storey of the building are adorned with masks of the same granite. The third and forth storeys are united by massive round columns, especially attracts our attention the stone balustrade on the third floor. The relieved frieze is decorated with mascarons in the form of male profiles and heads of rams, as well as with cartouches and compositions of armour. All those sculptural details of the bank building had been carved by L.A.Ditrich and V.V.Kozlov constantly co-operating with M.M.Peretyatkovich. The diversity of the finishing and variety of the stone decor reliefs make light and shade play on the plastic architectural details of the building and yet more accentuate its monumental bottom part supporting the upper storey colonnade up.
One is struck by the abundance of excellently polished stone in the entrance-hall staircase and former operational hall of the bank embellished with two rows of thick columns of polished dark-pink medium-grained rapakivi-granite. So rare rocks as black with golden veinlets Italian marble Portor, or green and red Levantian “marbles” may be seen in the interior as well. We mention in passing that the green Levantian “marble” was also used for a facade decor of the house at N 14 in the Great Naval Street where the University of Electrical Technical Communications is situated nowadays. Its only entrance is adorned with two fine columns of this green stone cut by numerous white calcite veinlets. At present the surface of the marble is considerably destroyed and does not glitter at all. The state of the stone indicates conclusively that application of the unstable, heterogeneous, though very picturesque, Levantian “Marble” for an outer decoration of buildings is not economically profitable. At the same time in the interior of the former Russian Trading and Industrial Bank this stone remains fresh and beautiful.
The Russian Trading and Industrial Bank (B.Morskaya St., N 15). Rustic ated grey Nystadt Granite.
Carving in sandstone (Gorokhovaya st., N 4).
A homogeneous fine-grained grey granite had served as a material for finish of exteriors of two monumental buildings standing in the Gorokhovaya (Pea) Street between the Little Naval Street and Admiralteisky (Admiralty) Prospekt. One of them (N 3) is faced with dark-grey Serdobol Granite, another (N 6) with grey fine-grained granite from Kovantsaari deposit.
The more interesting of these buildings is the house at N 6 erected to the project of the architect N.N.Veryovkin in 1911. The bottom of the edifice is adorned with stylized mascarons carved from the same grey granite, with all depictions differing from one another. The entrance to the house is framed by a portal and two polished columns of grey-pink granite. Yet another stone is used in the decor of the construction in addition to the grey granite. The upper storeys are united by gigantic pilasters cut of light marble, or limestone. To determine the rock more adequately is difficult as it is covered with dirty blue-green damp syains which are seemingly, to a greate extent, connected with oxidation of metallic (bronze) capitals topping the pilasters. Only at the sites where the pilasters are washed by rains the light (white-pink) colour of the stone can be seen. And truly white pilasters can be found only in the photograph published in the “Almanac of the Society of Architect-Artists”, 1912.
Located adjacent to the monumental house at N 6 is a building (N 4) that together with N 6 had been possessed by the Joint-Stock Insurance Company Salamander. It was erected as an appartment house by N.N.Veryovkin in common with M.M.Peretyatkovich in 1907-1909. For the outer decor the architects used several kinds of rocks: red Gangut Granite, red Radom Sandstone, white marble. The walls are faced with granite from the bottom to the top, architectural details that are bay-windows, balconies, cornices, ornaments being made of sandstone. Both of the rocks are red, but the sandstone, unlike the granite, is tinged with clear brown. The gumut of the red tints of the facing was widened due to the change of the granite colouration depending on a method of finishing of slab surfaces. The high ground floor of the edifice is faced with the slabs worked up in large-pointed technique and here is the dark-pink granite. The facing of the first floor has a “rocky” structure and seems to be more dark, pinkish-red. The most light pink colour is characteristic of granitic slabs with small-pointed surface structure. The slabs of such a kind were used to decorate the second, third and forth storeys.
The facade of the building is richly adorned with relief masks. There are human and animals’ heads, pythons and cornncopias among them. Fixed in the piers between windows of the upper storey are ornamental slabs with small female heads. All these adornments were carwed from sandstone exhibiting fine-grained structure and monotonous colouration that made possible the cutting of the very delicate details. The main entrance is accentuated by the austere portal faced with the polished granite cut out of which are a vegetable ornament and severe high-relief mask. The fretwork here is not so exquisite as the carving of the details of the sandstone that is conditioned by the more coarse-grained heterogeneous structure of the granite. Arranged above the portal is the oval bas-relief cut from the red sandstone and depicting a salamander that was a symbol of the insurance company. The stone decor of the facade is complemented by white marble medallions with bas-relief images of women-dancers. Unfortunately, cast-iron grills of the gate and main entrance are absent today. They harmonized well with the rich stone decor of the facade.
The Petersburg architects rated the Gungut Granite with its expressive red colour also high. May be the facing of the house at N 24 in Great Naval Street exemplifies decorative virtues of this rock best of all. The building erected by the architect K.K.Schmidt in 1899-1902 was intended for a shop of a well known jewelry firm - the Faberge House. This complex edifice interesting in its architecture looks intricately festive and it is difficult to believe that only one kind of stone was used for the decoration here. And that is the case - the whole of the facade of the house was clad with nothing but the red Gangut Granite. However the granite was worked up in different techniques, so at least three shades can be distinguished in the colouration of the building. The facing was executed in a highly masterly way, the slabs being brought to the conformity in the stone pattern with extreme precision and delicacy.
Granitic masks (Gorokhovaya st., N 6).
Slabs facing the ground floor of the building embellished with massive columns have polished surfaces. The polish had intensified the deep red colour of the granite. The columns of complex shape were cut out of huge blocks of the granite with the most homogeneous structure, but nevertheless in places the banding generally peculiar to the Gangut Granite is quite noticeable in them. Slabs of dark-red colour are placed above the columns. Arches over show-windows were constructed of wedge-shaped blocks cut out of the banded granite, therewith stone-cutters had set the slabs in such a way that the banded pattern of the stone as if diverges radially from the centre of the arches. The upper storeys were faced with slabs having a fine-pointed surface structure giving rise to the smoky light-rosy colouration of the granite, while the outstanding window frames and some other details have the “rocky” facture and, as a consequence of it – the darker rosy colour.
Blocks of the red Gangut Granite finished in the “rocky” techniques were also used for the revetment of the ground floor of the house N 35 built in the style of Modern in 1910. The upper storeys were covered with the smoky-pink granite from the deposit Kovantsaary, while for the bottom of the edifice black polished slabs of the specific small-spotty rock known as gabbro were applied. The combination of the black, red and greyish-pink stones makes the whole construction very effective. Together with the stone decor of the building, majolica compositions created after drawings of N.K.Roerich on the subject of Russian North plays the important role here. The upper majolica frieze went to ruin during the seige of Leningrad, nowadays only three small insets above windows of the first floor have been preserved.
The whole of the facade of the Faberge House (B.Morskaya st., N 24) is decorated with red granite from the cape Gangut , or Syyskuujansaari Island.
At N 37 in the Great Naval Street built for the Insurance Company “Russia” in the beginning of our century the upper storeys were plastered and only the plinth, cornices and portals were faced with the red Gangut Granite. However the combination of two different techniques of finish resulting - in coarse-knobby and glassy surfaces causes the diversity of tints in the one-coloured red stone. The granitic decor was complemented by the light-yellow Württemberg Sandstone, outside frames of huge windows having been cut from the rock. Natural stone abounds in the decor of the house at N 41 in the Great Naval Street erected after the project of the prominent German architect P.Behrens in 1911-1912 (the German Embassy was housed there). Through all their height the facades of the edifice were faced with thick slabs of Swedish granite coloured uniform rich red. Due to the rocky and small-knobby surface structure of the stone its bright colouration is lusterless. The three-quarter columns of the main (eastern) facade of the building are very impressive. They were clad of rounded blocks of granite, each of them being 0.7 m in height. That “rudesolid edifice” (as it was called in an “Architectural-artistic weekly”, 1914) was topped with a heavy sculptural group presenting bronze statues of two youths restraining horses. In the same volume they were described as follows: “The group, as a symbol of the Prussian system of State, looked formidably on the top of the construction and made a redoubtable impression against the background of the firm and massive rectangular building”. In 1914, shortly after Germany had declared the war against Russia that “pair of dray-horses together with fleshy lads” was thrown down on to the ground and drowned in the river Moika by a crowd of people incited by patriotic sentiments.
Standing at the corner of the Great Naval Street and Isaac’s Square is the building of the Astoria Hotel. It is one of the biggest hotels of Petrograd set up by the architect F.I.Lidval in 1914. The edifice was built in Modern style with use of some elements of Classicism. The two lower storeys are faced with pink and pink-grey granite from the deposit Antrea. The facades are decorated with oval medallions with masks, garlands and stylized vases cut out of the same granite. Placed over the main entrance to the hotel, between the second and third storeys is the gigantic bas-relief depicting the two figures: male and female ones.
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