Bathing traditions: Bath House to be restored in Neskuchny Garden

Bathing traditions: Bath House to be restored in Neskuchny Garden
The Bath House, one of the extant pre-revolutionary Park pavilions in Neskuchny Garden, was built in the late 18th century and is going to have a comprehensive restoration soon.

A unique piece of an old Park pavilion in Neskuchny Garden will be upgraded. The restoration project for the Bath House, a building with more than two hundred years of history, has been approved. Its front facade faces Yekaterininsky Pond. It is believed that the building had two functions once: its pile system filtered running water, and the building had a bath for nobles.

"The Bath House dates back to the late 18th century. It is a one-storey rectangular classicism style building with Tuscan order columns, a high dome and a terrace. It is an architectural landmark of federal significance. Its unique decor and supporting structures need to be restored. The experts are currently launching a large-scale stage of works to conserve the pavilion. Next year, Muscovites are expected to see the unique landmark renovated," said Head of the Moscow Cultural Heritage Department Alexei Yemelyanov.

He noted that within the upcoming works, the drainage system will be replaced, the piles, walls and foundation reinforced, new galvanised steel roof with dormer windows mounted. The lost sections of brick masonry are to be restored and extant ones are to be repaired, with concrete slabs installed and waterproofing and thermal insulation of the building provided. In addition, it is necessary to lay all communication lines to the pavilion and equip it with modern fire extinguishing and ventilation systems. The restoration is to start in the near future.

According to the restoration project, all extant elements of external and internal decoration, including wooden ones, will be cleaned of dirt and dust, reinforced and covered with protective compounds. The six-step stone stylobate will be restored. Experts will expand the historical window openings, install window frames and doors. The Bath House will have stairs leading to the entrances on both sides of the building. During the works, the white-stone columns will be restored, with lost capitals of the columns framing the front facade windows renovated. Columns, cornices and base of the Bath House will be clad with white stone, with facades plastered and painted in accordance with the passport of colour appearance of the building. As Alexei Yemelyanov noted, the restoration is to be completed next spring.

The Bath House was built in the 1790s on the land owned by the counts Orlov, in a ravine over Yekaterininsky Pond. It was a flowing water reservoir, with its drain going into Moskva River. There were luxury marble baths inside the house, filled with mineral spring water, with the bottom of the pond lined with marble. Some researchers believe that the house used to serve as a bath for the Emperor and his family.

It has been long before the Bath House was scheduled for restoration. Moreover, in the Soviet years, the location of windows was constantly changing, depending what the building was used for. The Bath House was burned down twice — in the 1960s and in 2003. After the last fire, it was closed and not used anymore.

 

The modern site of Neskuchny Garden, occupied by the House, was formed in the 19th century after merger of three estates. One of them was centred around Neskuchny country house built by an architect Dmitry Ukhtomsky in 1728 for Prince Nikita Trubetskoy. The estate lands were used for entertaining country trips of Prince and his entourage. In the early 19th century, the Trubetskoys sold the homestead to the Court Councillor Vasily Zubov, who later vastly expanded its borders. He acquired the neighbouring Andreyevskoe estate and a small estate of Lieutenant Goryanov located nearby.

In 1823, Prince Lev Shakhovskoy, the next owner, decided to build a healing water resort here. In 1825, the Prince arranged relaxing baths and walking galleries in the Park. However, according to archival records, "local baths stood empty, nobody drank water and walked in the galleries". Having spent a lot of money in vain, in November 1826, Shakhovskoy sold the estate to the Palace Department for the construction of the Imperial residence of Nicholas I.

The second estate on the grounds of today's Neskuchny Garden was the estate of the industrialist Prokofiy Demidov. In 1756, he divided the site into six rectangular terraces that led to the Moskva River, and laid out a garden shaped as an amphitheatre, with over 2,000 plants and rare birds and animals brought by specialists from Holland. There were palm trees growing in stone greenhouses of Demidovsky Garden. The Park was open to the public.

In the late 18th century, after Demidov's death, the estate passed into possession of counts Orlov. There were walks, hills, and baths arranged here. The garden also had an open 1,500-seat theatre. The estate was added to the Trubetskoy — Shakhovsky homesteads in 1832, after it had been transferred to the Imperial family. The estate of princes Golitsyn formed the third part of the future Neskuchny Garden.  It is remarkable that from 1798 it belonged to Natalya Golitsyna, the prototype of the heroine of 'Queen of Spades' by Alexander Pushkin. In 1843, the estate's grounds were also sold to the Palace Department.

Today, the grounds of Neskuchny Garden are a part of Gorky Park. Here you can walk along the shady alleys, play tennis or football on equipped grounds, and attend a chess club. Today, the building of the Alexander Palace houses the Russian Academy of Sciences.