World Monument Fund Reports on the Alexander Palace

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The Alexander Palace

Designed by the Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi and completed in 1796, Alexander Palace housed three generations of Russian monarchs before it was abandoned by the Imperial family in the months preceding the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Built on the order of Catherine the Great as a gift to her grandson Alexander I, the palace is in Tsarskoye Selo, a 1,500-acre imperial estate near St. Petersburg. The building was later used as a summer residence by Alexander’s brother, Nicolas I, and then by his nephew, Tsar Nicolas II. In 1917, the Imperial family was expelled from the palace by order of Alexander Kerensky, head of the provisional government. Nicholas II and his family were murdered by the Bolshevik regime one year later. From then until World War II the palace remained uninhabited; it functioned as a museum until occupying German forces converted the building into their military headquarters. Alexander Palace later served as a naval command base and research station, until the mid-1990s when we assisted with efforts to convert the palace into a museum.

Parts of Alexander Palace had fallen into serious disrepair by 1994 when it garnered local interest as a potential museum. We provided funds toward assessments and planning for public access to a suite of rooms to be used as museum space. Shortly after its inclusion on the 1996 World Monuments Watch, the palace was added to the list of institutions operated by the Museum-Preserve of Tsarskoe Selo, which agreed to manage the upkeep of the property and its tourist facilities. In September 1996, we helped with emergency renovations to the roof over the Nicholas II wing of the palace, comprising approximately one-third of the building’s total roof structure. Alexander Palace is now an exhibition space dedicated to the final years of Tsarist Russia, and houses a collection of Nicholas II’s personal effects and historical documents.

An important national heritage site (1995)

One of the few Tsarist residences left relatively intact following World War II, Alexander Palace provides a window into Imperial life during pre-communist Russia. For its historical value as the setting of Nicholas II’s final years, and for its artistic merits as a much-celebrated work of sumptuously decorated neoclassical architecture, the palace is an important national heritage site.

NOTE: the following three reports, published in 1995, 1996 and 1997 respectively, although now dated, still provide readers with some interesting facts on the history of the Alexander Palace, and the challenges presented with it’s restoration – PG

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Alexander Palace: Restoration and Adaptive Re-Use as a Museum (1995 – 112 pages)

Describes an investigation into the prospect of adapting the 18th century Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo near St. Petersburg for use as a house museum interpreting the history and life of the last Romanovs, the last imperial dynasty to rule over Russia. The neoclassical palace was designed by Giacomo Quarenghi and built between 1792 and 1796, a gift from Catherine the Great to her eldest grandson Alexander before he acceded to the throne. Following the Bolshevik Revolution and the execution of Nicholas II and his family the palace was used as a museum, until World War II, when it was damaged during the German occupation. In 1995-1996, World Monuments Fund conducted three missions to the palace. The first mission, described in this report, had an exploratory and fact-finding character and took place over five days in February 1995. During this mission the potential for repairing the structure, restoring its interiors, and returning to it original furnishings from the collections of Russian museums was studied. Two subsequent missions are described in separate reports.

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Alexander Palace: Groundwork for Restoration and Museum Adaptation (1996 – 47 pages)

This report provides a bilingual summary of the research later compiled into the report entitled “The Alexander Palace: Preliminary Assessment Report for Restoration and Adaptive Re-Use,” published by World Monuments Fund in 1997.Designed by Giacomo Quarenghi and built between 1792 and 1796, this neoclassical palace near St. Petersburg was a gift from Catherine the Great to her eldest grandson Alexander before he ascended to the throne. Alexander I, Nicholas I and Nicholas II all spent their summers living in the palace.

Following the Bolshevik Revolution and the execution of Nicholas II along with his family, the palace was converted into a museum, which it remained until World War II, when it was damaged during the German occupation. From the end of the war until 1995, the building served as administrative offices for the Russian Navy. Over the first half of 1995, a team from the World Monuments Fund conducted three missions to the palace, evaluating the potential for repairing the structure, restoring its interiors, and returning its original furnishings then in the collections of three different Russian museums. During the course of these missions, the World Monuments Fund established the scope of work necessary to convert the palace into a historic house museum focused on the life of Nicholas II and his family and secured funding for the site through American Express as part of the inaugural World Monuments Fund Watch List. This grant provided for emergency repairs to the roof over the southeast wing of the palace.

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Alexander Palace: Preliminary Assessment Report for Restoration and Adaptive Re-Use (1997 – 85 pages) 

Designed by Giacomo Quarenghi and built between 1792 and 1796, this neoclassical palace near St. Petersburg was a gift from Catherine the Great to her eldest grandson Alexander before he ascended to the throne. Alexander I, Nicholas I and Nicholas II all spent their summers living in the palace. Following the Bolshevik Revolution and the execution of Nicholas II along with his family, the palace was converted into a museum, which it remained until World War II, when it was damaged during the German occupation. From the end of the war until 1995, the building served as administrative offices for the Russian Navy. Over the first half of 1995, a team from the World Monuments Fund conducted three missions to the palace, evaluating the potential for repairing the structure, restoring its interiors, and returning its original furnishings then in the collections of three different Russian museums. During the course of these missions, World Monuments Fund established the scope of work necessary to convert the palace into a historic house museum focused on the life of Nicholas II and his family and secured funding for the site through American Express as part of the inaugural World Monuments Fund Watch List. This grant provided for emergency repairs to the roof over the southeast wing of the palace.

Click HERE for more current and up-to-date reports on the restoration of the Alexander Palace

© World Monuments Fund / Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 20 April 2019