Moscow Land Surveyors Office restorers come across unique 17th-century decor

Moscow Land Surveyors Office restorers come across unique 17th-century decor
Specialists will preserve the style of the 19th-century facade and will recreate the original look of the 17th-century elements. Thus, the old building will combine features of two historical epochs.

Restorers who have been working on the Moscow Land Surveyors Office in Khokhlovsky Pereulok since September have made their first finds. The main building of the city nobility estate, which housed the state office between 1802 and 1917, turned out to include 17th-century decor. The unique elements belong to both the interior and the exterior.

“The landmark evolved from 17th-century chambers. Originally, it was a two-storey house with high vaults and richly decorated architraves of surface-tooled brick. After removing the paneling and plasterwork, restorers came across traces of vaults. They also found a “pechyura” – an arched niche in vaulted chambers for storing household items, which had been bricked up. Specialists removed the bricks to integrate the “pechy  ura” and the vault into the interior,” Head of the Department of Cultural Heritage Alexei Yemelyanov noted.

Further inspection revealed that the windows of the Land Surveyors Office were cut through partitions in the old chamber walls while the original window openings were blocked up with stones. As a result, the cornices have partially survived on the walls above the first and the second floors. Moreover, during the building’s renovation, decorative elements that had been cut off the facade also got under the stonework that covered the openings. These include surface-tooled brick ornamented with plaits, rhombuses and more.   

According to Alexei Yemelyanov, specialists will preserve the style of the 19th century façade and will recreate the original look of the 17th-century elements.

“On the first floor, we will recreate the look of two windows and on the second floor ˗ of the architraves and of the pilasters in the shape of three half-columns. Regrettably, there are not enough elements preserved to bring the building back to its 17th-century appearance, but we can show some typical fragments,” added the department’s head.

By now, workers have finished strengthening and insulating the walls and foundation . Still pending is work to replace and reinforce the wooden roof and ceilings structures. The restoration is part of the One Rouble Per Square Metre reduced  land lease  rate programme. The investor and the leaseholder, who was selected via tender, is to restore the historical appearance of the cultural heritage landmark within five years – by 2023.

The main house of the nobility estate in Khokhlovsky Pereulok has been a regional cultural heritage landmark since 2017. The chambers that reportedly belonged to the Lopukhin princes date back to the 17th century. A century later, an estate with a residential house and outbuildings was erected on the site.  There is documentary evidence that between 1738 and 1742 the owner was Maria Dolgorukova.

In the early 19th century, the building was handed over to the Moscow Land Surveyors Office, which renovated it to suit the office’s needs. To make room for shelves to store documents, workers knocked down vaulted ceilings that were in the way. Besides that, the building lost its external decor, going from a rich manor to an office with a rather humble facade.

Land surveyors offices came to Moscow and St Petersburg in 1765 by order of Empress Catherine II. They employed draftsmen and land surveyors. In 1770-1788, the Moscow office was located on Tverskaya Street, and then it moved to the Kremlin and ultimately to Khokhlovsky Pereulok.

From 1753, it belonged to one of the Sheremetev counts. Due to illness, the owner could not attend services at the church on Khokhlovka and established the Church of the Holy Cross in the building. Later, ownership was passed to the Repnin princes. The last private owner was Princess Yekaterina Lobanova-Rostovskaya. In 1802, the city bought the mansion from her for the Land Surveyors Office.

The restoration and preservation of architectural monuments is a priority for the Department of Cultural Heritage. The work often leads to interesting finds that had long been considered lost.

This spring, restorers working on the Novospassky Monastery’s belfry found a commemorative plaque under a thick coat of plaster. The plaque was laid in the mid-18th century to mark the start of construction of the Church of Venerable Sergius of Radonezh. It bears an inscription in Church Slavonic. Such plates were placed on the site where a new church would appear during the ceremony to consecrate the foundation stone.

In summer, painting fragments came into sight in the course of the interior overhaul of the Geology and Physics pavilions at the National Exhibition of Economic Achievements (VDNKh). They had long been hidden from view beneath a coat of paper and plywood sheets.

Currently, city authorities are upgrading the  school where playwright Alexander Ostrovsky studied. They have completed emergency prevention work there. The school was built in Bolshoi Znamensky Pereulok in the 18th-19th centuries. One of the architects was Matvei Kazakov, better known for his work on the palace and park ensemble in Tsaritsyno.

Moscow also began work to revamp the State Planning Committee (Gosplan) garage, the last large building designed by noted architect Konstantin Melnikov (1890-1974). Completed in 1936, it became a symbol of the end of the era of avant-garde and constructivism in Soviet architecture.

And finally, this autumn, the Department of Cultural Heritage commissioned a project to do up the former Building of Congresses of the People’s Commissariat (Ministry) of Education. It was built in Maly Kharitonyevsky Pereulok in the early 20th century, with elements of English Gothic architecture. Originally intended for the Moscow Polytechnic Society, after the revolution it accommodated the People’s Commissariat (Ministry) of Education of the RSFSR.

In the past seven years, the capital has restored over a thousand cultural heritage sites.