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There are two architectural points of interest in Klimentovsky side-street that belong to two different eras. On one hand there is a large temple of martyr Clement the Pope; on the other hand, at the crossroads with Novokuznetskaya street, you can see a huge corner building with a domed rotund – it is the merchant Babanin’s apartment house. Right opposite the street from it is a lilac signboard of the Purpurny Legion store that sits in the former building of Nikolaevs’ city manor.
Babanin’s commercial apartment house was built in 1913, as drafted by one of Moscow’s most mysterious architects, Ernst-Richard Niernsee. It was Niernsee who first started constructing buildings this tall in Moscow; they were called “cloudscrapers” back then. The owner of the house, merchant Babanin, made his fortune on retailing sundries and small-ware, and he had long held the position of the warden of the Church of Paraskeva Piatnitsa, the one that gave its name to Piatnitskaya street. Babanin died in 1917, but managed to do so before the October revolution and the nationalization. One of his sons, Konstantine, became an actor at MKhAT theatre and one of the co-founders of the Moscow State University student theatre. The other son, Vladimir, accepted the role of the Church of Paraskeva Piatnitsa warden succeeding his father and held the position for ten more years. He was later arrested and got 10 years in prison.
After the revolution Babanin’s house was turned into a densely populated communal apartment building, thus joining most of the pre-revolution apartment houses. The old-timers recall that the local thugs were well-known in the neighbourhood for their boldness. There are two large round windows high up under the very roof called “the eye of the bull”. That is where the artists’ workshops are situated. The floors of the entrance to the building are still decorated with the metlakh tiles of the early 20th century.
Babanin’ house is decorated with a signboard reading “Strengthening the USSR defence”. These signboards were introduced in the 1930s by the Osoaviakhim Presidium (Osoaviakhim stands for “The Society for defence, aviation and chemical construction aid”). The signboards were to be mounted on the walls and usually adorned the buildings’ façades. You can still see them here and there on certain Moscow houses. For example, a signboard like this hangs above the entrance gate to 17 Piatnitskaya street.
In order to get the signboard it was necessary for every single resident of the house, including children over 12 years old, to successfully pass the examinations on air and chemical defence. It was also required there be a qualified instructor on dwelling containment in case of chemical hazard among the residents. All the adult and junior residents were to have gas masks and be able to use them.
Architect Niernsee is the man behind many of Moscow’s buildings. Yet very little is known about him. There isn’t even a certified photograph of him among the resources available. And if only it was all about the photo… Look at the life dates here: born around 1860, passed away around 1918. What if it’s not “passed away” but “left Russia”?..
The architect’s lastname sort of implies Germanic descent. Yet it was Warsaw that Ernst Niernsee, his brother Karl and his sister Suzanne came to Russia from in 1898. The scope of the architectural heritage he left behind is also uncertain. It seems like he began his career with reconstruction and topsiding of existing buildings. His first proper project was a residential house on Petersburg highway that was built in 1901, as commissioned by the “Gabai” company.
Niernsee was one of the pioneers of a pragmatic approach to architecture. He easily shifted from one style to another. His buildings do not exhibit any particular individual preferences in architecture. His style was whatever the customer wanted. Maybe that is the reason that Niernsee’s name is not featured in the register of Moscow architectural society. The architect who had built at least 15 – and more like around 40 – buildings in the city has remained a stranger to his brothers in craft.
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.