Gagarin's House

Nikolai Galkin / TASS
The palace of the Gagarin family, adorned with a bold 12-column portico, is one of the last works of architect Joseph Bové, dated 1826. This Italian-born architect played a very important role in reconstructing Moscow after the fire in 1812. He designed the Alexander Garden, the Moscow Manege, the Teatralnaya Ploschad (Teatralnaya Square) next to the Bolshoi Theatre, and the Triumphal Arch, which back then stood near Tverskaya Zastava Ploschad (Tverskaya Zastava Square). Looking at this array of important stately buildings, one sees clearly the great importance of this palace for the overall look of the 19th century Moscow. The proud history of this building began even before it was reconstructed by Bové. Back in the 17th century, there were stone chambers here, and in 1775, the great Russian architect Matvey Kazakov had built a new palace in their stead. The palace was particularly famous for the English Club that settled there. Tolstoy's War and Peace novel describes the formal dinner organized at the club in 1806 in honour of General Bagration, the hero of the Battle of Schöngrabern: "On March 3 all the rooms in the English Club were filled with a hum of conversation, like the hum of bees swarming in springtime. The members and guests of the Club wandered hither and thither, sat, stood, met, and separated, some in uniform and some in evening dress, and a few here and there with powdered hair and in Russian caftans."

A completely different eyewitness account was left by the French writer Marie-Henri Beyle, better known as Stendhal, who, in 1812, observed the officers of Napoleon's army emptying out the Prince's wine cellars: "The club is decorated in French style, and it looks majestic and smutty." After the fire in 1812 and the building's reconstruction, the English Club was not restored in the same place, the palace was bought by the Treasury, which opened the Novo-Yekaterininsky Hospital here. Later, it became the First Clinical Hospital of the Moscow University. This was where writer Anton Chekhov, a student of medicine, had practiced, and where his famous professors had worked. Under the Soviets, the hospital was renamed the 24th City Hospital and remained here until 2008. Following the restoration, the building was given over to the municipal parliament, the Moscow Duma.