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The huge grey bulk of the Government Building, or the House On The Embankment, as it is commonly called, occupies a whole block along Serafimovich Street from Bersenevskaya Embankment to the Water Overflow Canal. Essentially, it is the only even-numbered house on Serafimovich Street, even though it is made up of a few buildings and three inner courtyards.
The famous Government Building was not exactly built from scratch. Back in 1734 this area was occupied by the Stone Bridge Distillery and Free-house, which supplied state monopoly-produced vodka to the Moscow pubs and joints. It was shaped as a perfect hollow square, with a small square fire-safety pond in the middle. In 1759 the public house expanded. There were proper packhouses added to the back of it – by proper packhouses we imply there was adequate inside structure, not just a pack of cement boxes we often see as warehouses today.
The huge House On The Embankment was built on the site of former All Saints Street that is now Serafimovich Street. In the second half of the C18th on this very land stood the Stone Bridge Distillery and Free-house, with its entrance adorned with intricate gates and a tower. Those gates long served as a decoration element for both the street and the yard. When wine excise duty was abolished in 1863, the agency became redundant and started leasing the territory as warehouses to private customers. Ten years later it was acquired by the city government and was used for storing various city and municipal property.
The decision to build a “house for important officials” was taken on February 15th, 1927. The chosen location was a different one; the planned address was Vozdvizhenka Street, 3, leaving the old archive building uninvolved. Later on this spot will become home to the State Library, and the old archive will after all be knocked down. But the plans underwent a few changes, and the House became a building project-in-progress on the Island. The wine and salt courts nearby got affected by construction, too, as well as the warehouses and the original square building. Houses were taken apart, and the bricks were used in the new construction. The house rose rather fast – it was complete in four years.
This house remained officially the largest residential structure in Europe for a really long time. People started calling it the Government Building, or Iophan’s House – after its architect. At different times this house had been home to six different top party members, sixteen marshals and admirals, and more than sixty highly ranked officials. A real Kremlin residential campus it was!
Originally the Government Building, today’s memorial of the soviet past, was intended as residential housing for government highfliers and other highly ranked state officials. The size and location of each exact apartment depended on the position occupied. A step or two up the career ladder usually meant that a better apartment would be provided. However, should you have fallen out of favour with your seniors, you could easily end up not only receiving a downgrade in accommodation, but also a relocation trip to the most remote parts of the Soviet Union with no right to correspondence.
The territories of historical district Zamoskvorechye lie on the right (southern) bank of the Moskva River. They joined Moscow in the 14th century when Russian lands used to suffer from the Golden Horde raids. The settlers mainly were soldiers, handicraftsmen and merchants. Their life was organized in a patchwork sloboda system. In 1591-1592 during the reign of Feodor I the fortified wall on the site of the present-day Garden Ring was built. Even now, one can easily understand from the street names what occupation the residents had centuries ago. For example, royal garden attendants (садовники, sadovniki) settled in the beginning of present-day Sadovnicheskaya Street from 1495 until the fire of 1701; tanners specializing in sheepskin (oвчинники, ovchinniki) gave their name to Ovchinnikovsky Lanes; royal mint workers (монетчики, monetchiki) – to Monetchikovsky Lanes, Court translators (толмачи, tolmachi) to Tolmachevsky Lanes. Bolshaya Ordynka Street was named after Orda, was the road to the Golden Horde, and was initially home to the Tatar community.
During our tour we are going to tell you about famous historic buildings in Pyatnitskaya Street, the main walking street of the district. We will walk around the State Tretyakov Gallery and listen to the story about the Tretyakovs, famous Russian businessmen, collectors and patrons of art, and the history of their collection and Gallery building.
There is also the house and museum of another famous Russian businessman and patron of art - Bakhrushin museum of theater, built in 1896.
Famous Russian writer Alexander Ostrovsky also lived in Zamoskvorechye, in Malaya Ordynka street. If you like his works you can visit his house-museum.
Zamoskvorechye is famous for its churches: Church of St. Sophia Of God's Wisdom on Gardener's Island and its belfry, Church of St. George the Victorious in Endova, The Church of the Ikon “the Joy of All Who Suffer”, The Church of St Nicholas at Pyzhakh, etc. Each of them has its own history and mystery.
With Your Audio Guide you will go through all the streets and lanes, get familiar with some interesting yards, explore the legends and myths and find out the truth. You will relax on the benches of Bolotnaya square; take pictures of the Kremlin domes, Giant Peter the Great statue, river embankments, learn about the former Mamontov Hotel and super deluxe Balchug-Kempinsky.