Symbol of the epoch: future results of the Central Telegraph restoration

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Symbol of the epoch: future results of the Central Telegraph restoration
The press service of Moscow’s Department of Cultural Heritage
The facades will be restored to the original appearance after the sample of 1927.

The Moscow Central Telegraph is waiting for restoration. The Department of Cultural Heritage of Moscow (Mosgornaslediye) approved the project of the required works. The five-story building in the constructivist style at the corner of Tverskaya Street and Gazetny Lane was built in 1927 by architect Ivan Rerberg. It can be called a technopolis of that time: four organizations worked in that high-rise at once — the Central Telegraph, the radio relay center and offices of long-distance and international telephone communications.

The Central Telegraph retained its key importance as a significant communication center throughout the 20th century. On weekdays, the number of telegrams transmitted was reaching 800 thousand per day and 2.5 million on holidays.

In addition to the hardware and public halls, the building housed apartments for management (residents moved to other living places in 1957), bedrooms for the shift on duty, a laundry room, a dining room, a library for employees and a nursery for their children.

In the 2000s, the Central Telegraph was mainly used as an office center for renting working spaces.

"The Moscow Central Telegraph is one of the symbols of the entire epoch. It is extremely important for us that the restoration here be carried out properly. To do this, specialists scrupulously studied archival drawings and photographs of the building. The project of future works has already been agreed. They will be conducted under the supervision of the Mosgornaslediye. We hope that after the restoration the Central Telegraph will once again take an important place in the city’s life," said Alexey Yemelyanov, Head of the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage.

Clock with a bell, globe and other peculiarities

The telegraph building is a closed square with a pentagonal tower. Its upper part is crowned with cast-iron lattices, the central part is decorated with an image of an early version of the Soviet coat of arms — a globe framed by two ribbon-tied sheaves of wheat with a sickle and a hammer on its sides, and a red star on the top. The facades of the building are decorated with light gray granite, the southern facade bears a “Telegraph” relief inscription.

The metal glazed globe on the main facade was originally equipped with a special mechanism — according to the architect's intention, it was supposed to rotate. Actually, the idea was not realized, and the figure remained motionless. Due to its wear the original globe was replaced with a plastic copy in 2010.

Another original decoration of the house is a clock with a bell. It can be seen on the corner of the building from Nikitsky Lane. The stained glass dial, illuminated in the dark, is located on the facade, and the bell is mounted on the roof. The clock’s author is unknown, presumably it was made in Germany in the late 19th- early 20th century. The Central Telegraph’s clock used to be considered the most accurate, all telegraphs of the country and even the Kremlin checked time by it. The clockwork mechanism is still in good condition, it is wound up manually once a week. A dial, unusual for today, deserves special attention. The clock digits showing hours are inscribed in two circles, on the outside — the numbers from 1 to 12 in Roman numerals, on the inside — the numbers from 13 to 24 in Arabic numerals. Thus, 24 hours are symbolically divided into day and night. For clarity purpose, the Roman numerals are black, and Arabic numerals are gold. There is another feature of the dial — the Roman numeral denoting the fourth hour is depicted as IIII, but not as IV. The tradition of such writing came from European clockmakers of the Middle Ages. It is still used by some masters in manufacturing modern clocks.

It was projected that the clock bell on the roof would strike every hour. But this plan immediately failed, because loud thundering sounds deeply disturbed residents of neighboring houses. The bell was first made quieter, and then it completely fell silent, but remained an attraction of the building.

The Process of the Central Telegraph Restoration

It will be the first comprehensive restoration of the building. During the work, specialists will reinforce the foundation and walls brickwork, restore the facades, cast-iron lattices on the tower and the stone porch of the central entrance. The metal glazed globe will be recreated according to archival documents, the image of the USSR coat of arms and the “Telegraph” relief inscription will be put in order, the clock face and bell will be restored, the roof will be repaired.

Since the telegraph’s spaces were rented out in recent decades, many of the original doorways were bricked up by tenants, new entrances and exits were cut through walls, and the window frames were partially modified. Restorers will bring all doors and windows in line with the original layout.

Later partitions and structures will also be dismantled, and walls and ceilings restored.

All decorative elements will be preserved. In particular, the vaulted ceiling decorated with stucco will be put in order in the central lobby, the granite floor with the date of the telegraph construction written on it (1927) will be restored, chandeliers, floor lamps and wall sconces will be cleaned. Also, specialists will improve the courtyard and open it to visitors. The courtyard was previously closed and used for technical needs.

Once the restoration is over, the telegraph will become a place of attraction for citizens again.

Ivan Ivanovich Rerberg (1869-1932) was a Russian engineer and architect. He was born in Moscow in a family of hereditary engineers. In 1896 he graduated from the Nikolaev Engineering Academy in St. Petersburg. In the late 90s of the 19th century, he supervised construction of urban sewerage system in Moscow and was one of the deputies of architect Roman Klein during construction of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts (then the Emperor Alexander III Museum of Fine Arts with the Imperial Moscow University). His most significant independent architectural projects are the Kievsky Railway Station and the Central Telegraph.

The Mosgornaslediye is focused on preservation and restoration of landmark buildings. Many monuments get their new life, they are being adapted for modern use preserving the original appearance of the capital. For example, restoration of white stone sculptures that adorn the entrance to the territory of the Imperial Orphanage from the Solyanka street side was recently completed. And the work on preserving the facades of the former manor main house of merchants Sushkins — Kevorkovs was completed in September. This is one of the oldest buildings in Lyusinovskaya Street