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THE ALEXANDRIA PARK

The landscaped park of Alexandria, located on the shore of the Gulf of Finland to the east of the Lower Park, occupies an area of 115 hectares.

Alexandria was conceived and constructed in the second half of the 19th century as an Imperial summer residence, the private possession of the Romanov family. In August 1825 Emperor Alexander I presented this land to his brother Nicholas, who was crowned Emperor four months later and made a present of it to his wife Alexandra, after whom the estate is named.

Alexandria was created under the supervision of the architects Adam Menelaws, Joseph Charlemagne, Andrei Stakenschneider and Eduard Gahn, the master gardeners Friedrich Wendelsdorf and Peter Ehrler. To make the territory more picturesque, extensive earthworks were undertaken. A great variety of trees and bushes were brought from the Botanical and Tauride Gardens in St Petersburg, from Moscow, Marseilles and Hamburg. They were skillfully arranged in matching decorative groups.

The shadowy groves and sunlit glades, hills and smooth ponds, mysterious thickets, a network of roads and paths, suddenly opening vistas of the sea, the ruins of old structures, small bridges, summerhouses and benches - all this turned Alexandria into a magnificent park reminiscent of the age of Romanticism.

The central axis of Alexandria is the straight Nikolskaya (Nicholas) Avenue which transverses the park from west to east and divides it into a seashore section and an elevated part.

Building here began in 1826 with the Cottage, a palace built in the neo-Gothic style characterised by the use of Gothic architectural features without any organic link between function and construction. In 1829 the architect Adam Menelaws completed work on its decor. This compact, three-storey building, almost square in ground plan, has a roof with steep gables painted the colour of thatch, yet another reminder of its purpose as a country villa. The wrought-iron lattice work of the balconies, the bay windows and terraces, the window grilles, and the moulding of the cornices are all done in the English style of Tudor Gothic. The deep loggias of the east and west facades are also in this style. The details of the decor are painted white to contrast with the ochre of the walls. The coloured glass in the casements of the arcades on the ground floor is also reminiscent of Gothic. Some very fine flower-beds were laid out around the Cottage and the other buildings in the park.

In 1842 the architect Andrei Stakenschneider added a dining room, pantry and marble terrace with a fountain to the Cottage, which had become somewhat cramped for the royal family. This upset the strict symmetry of Menelaws' building, but made it look more homely and attractive.

At the request of Nicholas I the German architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel designed a Gothic church (Capella) for the Alexandria Park in 1829. In 1831-1833 the church was built in the western section of the park on the edge of the upper terrace (architects Adam Menelaws and Ludwig Charlemagne).

Around the Cottage there was a whole complex of auxiliary service buildings designed by Menelaws in 1827-29. They have survived to the present day. Opposite the palace, at the entrance to Alexandria from St Petersburg Highway, was built the stone Gothic Guardhouse. Despite its small dimensions, the building looks like an imposing structure. The seemingly massive walls are pierced with narrow lancet windows, the top is surmounted with many-faceted turrets and crenellated parapets with a Gothic ornament. Next to the Cottage Palace were the Stables and the Kitchen Building redesigned in 1841 by Andrei Stakenschneider into a house intended for the studies of Grand Dukes Nikolai Nikolayevich and Mikhail Nikolayevich. The building became commonly known as the Grand Ducal School. Stakenschneider turned the Guardhouse, situated on the lower terrace, into a small stone house for Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich, the Emperor's second son. The house became known as the Konstantin or Admiral House. In 1857-58 the telegraph building was erected near the highway to Stakenschneider's plans. Nowadays all these buildings are used for service purposes.

In 1828-30, Adam Menelaws built a single-storey structure in a "rural" style, the Farm, not far from the Gothic Chapel. It had rooms for shepherds, kitchens, storerooms, and in its cattle-yard were kept pedigree cows and bulls (they were later moved to the New Farm built in 1853-54 by Stakenschneider near the highway). The eastern "pavilion" of the Farm was intended for the heir to the throne Alexander Nikolayevich. Between 1838 and 1859 Andrei Stakenschneider redesigned the Farm into the extensive two-storey Farm Palace of Emperor Alexander II and his family. The facades and interiors of the palace were fashioned in the Neo-Gothic style. Various structures required for studies or games of the grand dukes - a toy fortress, a fire observation tower, a water mill, a peasant hut and a small children's farm - emerged all around. During the Second World War the interior decor of the Farm Palace was destroyed.

An important landmark on the seashore was the latest major building of Alexandria - the Lower Dacha of Nicholas II, the last Russian Emperor. In 1883-85 Anton Tomishko put up a small seaside dacha with a tall stone tower and in 1895-97 he rebuilt it into an ornate and majestic summer palace with a complex of auxiliary structures. The interiors of the palace were adorned in the Art Nouveau style. The last Russian Emperor and his family spent every summer in it. Two of Nicholas's daughters, Maria and Anastasia, and his son Alexis, heir to the throne, were born there. The palace was destroyed during the Second World War.

The romantic landscapes of Alexandria were enriched with sculpture and various small-scale architectural structures as well as arbours most of which were light trellis frames twined all over with greenery. They had poetic names - Pink, Birch, Maritime and Sea Arbours. The Wrought-Iron Arbour built to a design by the architect Eduard Gahn amidst flower-beds in 1889 has reached us. A statue of Tsesarevich Alexis by the sculptor Victor Zaiko has been installed in the park in 1994.


mpeg The Alexandria park (569 Kb)


The Cottage Palace


The Church of St Alexander Nevsky (The Gothic Chapel).


An arbour near the Cottage.
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