Pavel Novikov/

This solid 17th-century white-stone building is considered the oldest residential house built in stone in Nizhny Novgorod. It is believed that Peter the Great stayed here for a week on his first trip to Nizhny as a guest of local merchant Yefim Chatygin in 1695. Hence its alias: “Peter’s House.”   

At the end of the 19th century, the house was converted to a repository for the antique artefacts collected by the academic archive commission of the Nizhny Novgorod Governorate. The front door porch was added at around the same time. At different times during the Soviet period, the mansion housed communal flats, the local branch of the national authority for the protection of historical and cultural landmarks, and an art restoration studio. The building is currently unoccupied, but continues to be under federal government oversight as an architectural landmark. 

Pavel Novikov/

Another well-preserved 17th-century landmark, Olisov Chambers are the no more than twenty or so similar white-stone structures still existing in all of Russia, according to historians. Every Nizhny Novgorod city guide will tell you that the Chambers once belonged to Afanasy Olisov, a wealthy local merchant, but some historians contend Olisov had nothing to do with the Chambers. At least there is no conclusive historical evidence to the contrary. However, it is a documented historical fact that Olisov sponsored the construction of the Church of the Assumption nearby.  

This was a residential building up until the late 1970s. Then it was restored, whereupon the regional folk arts centre moved in. Olisov Chambers currently house church gold embroidery workshops. 

Pavel Novikov/

These two houses, one dating back to the 17th century, the other, to the 18th century, were built by different generations of the descendants of Ivan Pushnikov, a well-to-do local leather goods merchant. These were some of the earliest houses to be built in stone in Nizhny Novgorod. Only very wealthy people could afford homes built with large-size stones back in those days.  

Similarly to Chatygin Mansion, Pushnikov Chambers are associated with the name of Peter the Great. The emperor was hosted by the Pushnikovs in 1722 on his way to the Caspian Sea. He could have celebrated his 50th birthday here. Pushnikov Chambers were at some point handed over to the nearby St. Sergius Church and were used as housing for priests until the 1917 Revolution. From then on, the two buildings would house a succession of government agencies and organizations. Pushnikov Chambers are now a museum famous for its lavish décor. No Nizhny Novgorod city tour bypasses Pushnikov Chambers. 

Pavel Novikov/

This neoclassical masterpiece with a waterfront colonnade was built in 1912 for Fyodor Kamensky, a ship-owner. His father Mikhail Kamensky headed the local museum of art and history. The family owned an imposing collection of paintings and other artworks, no trace of which could be found after the 1917 Revolution. The house kept the Kamensky family secret for decades until 1973, when the School of Chemistry of Gorky State University handed it over to Znanie scientific union. During the renovation, a secret hiding place was discovered underneath the massive oaken staircase, and all the Kamensky family treasures were in it. They stashed them away in the hope that things would someday return to the pre-1917 normal. The treasure-trove contained more than 600 artworks: Russian and Saxon porcelain, rare and precious figurines, antique chandeliers, paintings and crystal tableware. Every item was lovingly wrapped in 1917 newspapers. The collection is currently on display at the museum and preserve of history and culture. The mansion is an architectural landmark under federal oversight.  

Pavel Novikov/

Nizhny Novgorod city mayor and ship-owner Dmitry Sirotkin commissioned the master house of his estate, which then occupied an entire city block, to the architects Leonid, Viktor and Aleksander Vesnin. The brothers went down in history primarily as seminal architects of Soviet-era constructivism and creators of many notable constructivist landmarks in Moscow: the department store at Krasnaya Presnya and Likhachev Palace of Culture, among others. There is, of course, no trace of constructivism in this Nizhny Novgorod mansion, built in 1916 in full conformity with the pre-1917 tradition.  

Surprisingly, all the vicissitudes of history notwithstanding, this gray-blue house with white stucco mouldings, a four-column portico and an airy semi-rotunda consistently remained true to its original purpose, as conceived by Dmitry Sirotkin, for many decades. It was always an art museum until 1992, when authorities decided to move the bulging art collection to a new, larger building, allotted for the museum inside the Kremlin. Sirotkin’s Mansion was in the meantime closed for restoration, and would not reopen until 2009.  

The mansion currently houses a collection of Western European art, while the annex is dedicated entirely to just one epic painting: Minin’s Proclamation to the People of Nizhny Novgorod by Konstantin Makovsky.  

The other historical mansion on the former Sirotkin Estate is an example of excellent restoration work, carried out quite recently. Local historians like to say that the house revealed its secret in gratitude for the loving, careful treatment during the restoration. Magnificent paintings in the characteristic style of 16th-century church murals were discovered underneath the layers of stucco on the ceiling during the restoration. The paintings date back to before the church reform of Patriarch Nikon, which is to say, before the Great Schism of the Russian Orthodox Church. Dmitry Sirotkin was the leader of one of the local Old Believer communities, and offered his home as a prayer house. It was quite a story in its time: Sirotkin was so respected in Nizhny Novgorod that the provincial governor ignored the Metropolitan’s request to close down the Old Rite prayer house on the city mayor’s estate. Following the 1917 Revolution, the house would at different times serve as an orphanage, an art school, and even an atheism museum. It is now home to the offices of a bank.  

Pavel Novikov/

This house with an annex in a quiet, green part of town, just off the main street – Bolshaya Pokrovskaya – used to belong to the family of the 19th-century writer and literary critic Nikolai Dobroliubov. The family actually lived in the annex, while apartments in the three-story main building were for rent. the people of consequence who lived here in the second half of the 19th century were the writer Pavel Melnikov-Pechersky and the music critic Aleksander Ulybyshev, who hosted literary and musical evenings in his flat. Someone brought the future composer Mily Balakirev here for his first audition one evening. One of the initiators of the 1925 Decembrist Revolt, Nizhny Novgorod native Sergei Trubetskoy, subsequently moved in here. The house served as a grammar school for girls in the early 1900s, then became residential again.  

The main building and the annex both are now dedicated to Russia’s only Nikolai Dobroliubov Memorial Home. Theatre plays are staged and tea parties are hosted here in the Dobroliubov family tradition.