on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Architectural Walks in Kolpino Part 3 – Early 20th Century Red Bricks

Kolpino

I just could not keep myself from making yet another post on my travels before this November-on-the-road ends. Out of my summer archive here comes this architectural post on my native town. This proves one does not have to travel far to see more. So, Architectural Walks in Kolpino series continued, now with the red brick houses dating back to the late 19th and early 20th century, when they called our country the Russian Empire.

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The majority of pretty old buildings in Kolpino are gathered round and inside the Izhorsky Zavod (Izhora Plant) the territory of which is still behind the closed gates for a non-employee. Some of them however can now be accessed by the outsiders as the plant itself has long ago been split in various organizations.

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It’s only natural that the plant should hold the record number of old constructions as this was the first thing built in stone that appeared here back in 1722. Yes, Peter the Great and a factory giving birth to a city once again!

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These stylish though gloomy red brick buildings date back to the beginning of the twentieth century and they were thought to become the houses for the workers at the Izhorsky Plant. They survived the World War II bombings and are now used for offices.

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And yes, trees grow right OUT of them… Although from the outside it looks they are somehow more lucky in terms of preservation (be it their ‘natural’ abilities to last long or the companies trying to preserve the building) than some of the Soviet constructions. The street name is Sovetsky Boulevard, Soviet Boulevard, which used to be Naberezhnaya Polukruglogo Kanala (Half-Circle Canal Embankment) before, and it houses quite a number of architectural spots, one of which is the grand Dvorets Kultury.

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This is yet another surviving building along the Canal dating back to the late 19th – early 20th century, the Church of the Ascension with a parish school which was used first as a workers’ club with a library and a gym, then as a cinema hall during the Soviet times. Well, at least it was not blown up into the air and survived the War! The architect was a prolific one working in the eclectic and modernism styles in St Petersburg. After the Soviet interventions into the facade the building had to be reconstructed according to the old pictures and was given back to the church in the 1990s.

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Following the Half-Circle Canal you will come across two formerly identical buildings created by the same architect as the red brick above in 1903-1905. These were also built to house the workers of the nearby Izhorsky Plant. I’ve been inside on the flats which at the time was packed with super cool things no one else I knew had (which made me completely not curious about the building itself) and I can say that they are very spacious. I loved the way the kitchen opened into the dining room (a 100% unseen thing in a crowded Soviet flat) and there was a room with a pianoforte – as if that room was just made to have one.

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A better preserved (now a hotel) house of the same type can be found along the wall of Izhorsky Plant. I like these things supporting (and decorating) the roof from the inside. It’s a pity this building is rarely seen by anyone as the place is behind the main street.

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In the search for more red bricks and old stuff you can either follow Lenin Avenue (the ex-Avenue of Tsarskoye Selo) to find more creations of the same architect (yet another house for the workers which is an evening school and during the Blockade was the only operating school, the hospital buildings of the Izhorsky Plant, now a TB clinic, partially reconstructed and partially in awful ruins, and the Izhorsky Plant itself) or go behind and round the Dvorets Kultury to see the red brick ex-school of the plant (now sports school), the ex-poor-house built in the late 19th century by another prolific eclectic architect (this is now an orphanage) or this Izhorsky Plant store with its doors growing out of the ground.

Kolpino

It’s now considered an architectural monument – although that doesn’t really help to preserve it. The construction is dated back to 1894 and used to be the home for the plant’s Consumer Society. We would go there for fresh bread and macaroni when I was a child – its ground floor is still a shop but it lost its atmosphere.

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Those were the days when plastic was more expensive than an ice cream and so bread was sold on racks without any packaging. You were to try the loaf you liked with a fork and carry it in your avoska back home. I miss seeing that fragrant mass of bread and rolls and buns unfolding in front of you.

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Let’s continue our quest with another red brick dating back to 1910-1911 – welcome the famous Banya, Kolpino Bath House. It’s situated close to the railway station (there will be at least two posts on it) and is such an imposing building you have to go all around it to get the picture.

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I remember now that I was somehow afraid of this building with strange window panes and long chimneys at the back. The people frequenting the inevitable ryumochnaya (let’s call it a bar) did not help make it look more attractive. There’s a tradition of ours to drink after you’ve bathed, because you’re all clean and ready to start all over again, so let’s drink to that. And in this pre-New Year’s Eve period this tradition is always remembered as it’s the cause of all the events in the most popular (still) new year movie of all times – Ironiya Sudby (the Irony of Fate) or S Legkim Parom! – which is exactly the phrase you would say to someone walking out of banya.

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If I’m not mistaken this window used to be the laundry. The bath house is still operating although it now has lots of other organizations inside too (such a huge building!). In summer you can see old ladies selling veniki from birch twigs. Venik is a thing you or your fellow bath-goers use as a tool to slap your naked body with – a traditional way of cleaning, massaging and a bit of masochism too =)

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Well, bath-going used to be an integral part of the Russian and then Soviet life, a true culture on its own. With the baths being installed inside every house it somehow degraded and now it’s more like a custom or a necessity when we’re having the usual central heating system check-ups with no hot water for 10 days during summer all over the country.

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 It’s curious that the bath house is situated on Kultury Street (Culture Street) – due to the fact it had a theatre (later cinema) and a music school. The name is Soviet of course. The music school used to be an orphanage and was built in early 1880s and then rebuilt in 1911 with the money collected by the charity society of Kolpino. My Mom went to have her piano lessons at this school. And this is all for now, a nice walk we’ve made already!

Sun is here with us today so I’ve already made lots of photos of… food, finally. Will soon come back with bread, Karelian pies and apple pastries!
G.

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