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Investments and fines. How Sverchkov’s dacha in Pushkin was restored

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Wooden mansions from 19-20th century are being restored in Pushkin – the house of Canobbio opposite the Gostinnyi Dvor and Sverchkov’s dacha on Pavlovskoe Shosse.

Back in the day, there were 230 buildings like this. Now there’s only 30 left, most of them are in hazardous condition. And despite that, the company which took the project of restoring them has had questions from the authorities. It even went to court. Mariya Marchenko with the details.

- This building last looked like this back in 1920

And this is how the very same building looked in 2011. After the wooden mansion on Pavlovskoe Shosse in Pushkin was bought by a private company, it burnt, crumbled and was totally dismantled. Nobody believed that Sverchkov’s data would literally rise from the ashes

Mariya Marchenko, reporter: “This building is newly built. But the construction company assures – it is absolutely identical to the original. The building was restored upon blueprints from the dawn of the last century. They even used aged wood”

Investors are restoring this architectural monument. Tatyana Volokh gives an easy explanation about her love for vintage mansions – she was born in Pushkin and saw masterpieces of wooden construction destroyed one after another. But the initiative of private businessmen may not become a trend.

Tatyana Volokh, CEO of investing company: “If we estimate how much we’ve spent – it is quite sad. But we made a conscious decision not to buy fur coats, jewelry and cars. We like history and are investing into it”

Restoring crumbling buildings – even with their beautiful history – has proved to be twice as unprofitable. Apart from actual investment, they also had to pay fines. That’s because they started restoration works of Sverchkov’s dacha having not talked the project through with monuments preserving committee. The building is now classified not as a valuable architectural object, but a replica. Like a copy of a painting.

Mikhail Milchik, deputy head of St. Petersburg Cultural Heritage Preservation Council: “Its extremely upsetting that Sverchkov’s dacha perished, because it was one of the most beautiful buildings in Pushkin. It was called monument because it could not have been restored. This new building will keep the memory of 21st century alive – when people do such things to objects of cultural heritage. The main feature of a monument – its authenticity. If a Rembrandt’s painting is wasted and a copy is made, then it would be a copy, not the original”

But some things do stay authentic. The famous carved staircase was spared by the fire. Just like the entire mansion, it was designed by then-chief architect of the Tsarskoe Selo – Silvio Danini. All the things which could be retained inside the century-old dacha have been retained, according to the investor. All those which could not, have been reduplicated with a pinpoint accuracy.

Tatyana Volokh, CEO of investing company: “We recreated an exact copy, having ordered handmade tiles and imitating sandstone from artificial stones – because sandstone is not being extracted anymore”

Those keeping the history of these mansions also disagree with the authorities’ decision. People of Pushkin have got used to it – modern carton-box houses replace cozy wooden dachas, which survived the Great Patriotic War by miracle. The land is paid for at auctions. And even a protected building status doesn’t stop investors – they’re ordering an expertise and cancel the protection. 

Natalya Davydova, director of History and Literature museum of Pushkin: “There have never been restoration works of wooden buildings. There had been scheduled renovations, but it came from emergency funds, that’s why these buildings slowly collapsed”

Today you would find around 30 of such reminders of the pre-revolution era here, but there used to be more than two hundred. There are not too many of those willing to spend yet. Sverchkov’s dacha aside, the construction company is restoring 4 more masterpieces of wooden architecture at Tsarskoe Selo. Just recently, restoration of classic architecture masterpiece – the Canobbio building – was completed. Now an annex of the Patkul dacha – built in 1854 – is being worked on. The building was also dismantled at first and then re-created…using modern materials. They also had to pay a fine for that, having decided that a replica would still be better than a modern building or an empty space – with a “here used to be an architectural masterpiece” placard.

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