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The dark grey large-windowed building on the odd-numbered side of Nikolskaya Street is the former Nikolsky Covered Market. It's one of the earliest examples of style moderne in Moscow.
The History Museum – just around the corner – has always suffered from a chronic lack of space. In 1995 it was decided to allocate the former Nikolsky Covered Market building to the museum. The idea now is to create a Museum Quarter in the city around the area of Nikolskaya Street and Theatre Square, in which the former Royal Mint building and the old Nikolsky Covered Market will be included.
In 1900 architect Kekushev radically redesigned the part of the former Royal Mint building whose facade looks onto Nikolskaya Street. The new building was named the Nikolsky Covered Market. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the market building was used by various organisations and offices, and the Royal Mint building was put to a new use as a printing press. Nowadays the ground floor of the building is converted to use for a restaurant and shops, while restoration continues on the upper floors.
Lev Kekushev was a prominent Moscow architect who worked in the style moderne genre. He held fast to the early Franco-Belgian models of moderne, and a key facet of his work was the scrupulous approach he took towards interiors. He signed all of his work with a heraldic symbol – a statue or bas-relief of a lion on the roof of the building.
Kitay-gorod is one of the oldest parts of Moscow. It appeared nearby the old wooden Kremlin. Although the name translates as “Chinatown,” it probably derives from kita (wattle), referring to the wall that surrounded this early Kremlin suburb. Today, remains of an old city wall and colorful churches are scattered throughout this ancient neighborhood.
The stone walls were erected in the 16th century by an Italian architect known under the name Petrok Maly and originally featured 13 towers and six gates. They were as thick as they were high. The last of the towers were demolished in the 1930s, but small portions of the wall still stand. One of two remaining parts of the wall is located in Zaryadye and the other near the exit from the Okhotny Ryad station of Moscow Metro behind the Hotel Metropol.
Kitay-gorod starts at Red Square. Apart from Red Square, the quarter is bordered by the chain of Central Squares of Moscow, notably Theatre Square (in front of Bolshoi Theatre), Lubyanka Square (in front of the KGB headquarters), and Slavyanskaya Square.
Since time immemorial Kitay-gorod has been developing as a trading area. And for centuries it was known as the most prestigious business area of Moscow. Its three main streets — Varvarka, Ilyinka, and Nikolskaya — are lined with banks, shops, and storehouses. There are also lots of historical buildings that relate to the heritage of the federal and global importance now.
In our tour you will walk along Nikolskaya Street that is famous for being the site of Moscow's first university, the Slavic Greek Latin Academy, housed in extant Zaikonospassky monastery (1660s). Another monastery cathedral, the main church of Epiphany Bogoyavlensky Monastery (1690s), is the oldest male monastery in Moscow, stands in the middle of Kitay-gorod in the eponymous Bogoyavlensky Lane. The 18th century survives in the exterior walls of the otherwise rebuilt Gostiny Dvor (Guest Merchant's Court) by Giacomo Quarenghi.
A whole quarter of Kitay-gorod adjacent to the Moskva River and known as Zaryadye (now just Varvarka Street) was demolished in the 20th century, sparing only those structures that were classified as historic monuments. These include the Cathedral of the Sign (1679–84), the Church of All Saints (1680s), St. George's Church on Pskov Hill (1657), St. Maksim's Church (1698), St. Anna's Church at the Corner (1510s), St. Barbara's Church (1796–1804), the Old English Embassy (1550s), and the 16th century Romanov boyar residence. The two last are the museums. You can visit them to see the life of the first Romanovs in the 16-17th centuries.