His Majesty's Own Dacha as it looked in Tsarist times
Situated along the Peterhof Road are a series of former Imperial residences that few people ever have the opportunity to visit. Many have been abandoned by time and neglect, often falling to decay and ruin.
One such residence is His Majesty's Own Dacha, which is situated about 3 km west of the Lower Park at Peterhof.The private dacha and its chapel were built in 1844-50 for the Tsesarevich Alexander Nicholayevich (future Emperor Alexander II) by the Russian architect Andrei Stackenschneider on the site of the former, smaller, dacha of the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, daughter of Peter the Great.
The private chapel was reached by a footbridge that spanned the tiny green valley that separated it from the dacha.
During its heyday the impressive two-storye Baroque style dacha was one of Stackenschneider's architectural masterpieces. Several watercolours by E. P. Hau and Luigi Premazzi have survived and allow us to appreciate the beautiful interiors of this Imperial residence.
His Majesty's Own Dacha as it looks today
During the Soviet years the dacha was declared a "monument of national importance." During the Second World War, it was shelled, but was later restored. In the 1980s, the building was abandoned and has sat empty ever since.
In 2004, minor restoration work was carried out by a local firm. Work progressed at a very slow pace, however, some repairs on the historic building were carried out.
Earlier this month a decision was made to restore and convert the former Imperial dacha into a wedding palace. The decision has been approved by the local governor, and funds have been allocated for the project. Work is expected to begin shortly, with work to be completed by 2015.
I had the opportunity of visiting the Imperial dacha some years back. I was saddened by its advanced stage of neglect, so news that this historic building is to be restored is indeed good news. I had, however, always hoped that it to would have been transferred to the Peterhof State Museum-Preserve and restored to its former grandeur.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 22 November, 2012