Marble (Mountain) Hall opens in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: view of the newly restored Marble (Mountain) Hall in the Alexander Palace

“The restoration of the Alexander Palace continues despite the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Olga Taratynova during a press conference held on 22nd November.

Olga Taratynova noted that the first stage of the restoration, located in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace has been completed. The second phase, the restoration of the western wing of the palace [seen in the photo] is now underway, and scheduled to open no earlier than 2024.

Since the Alexander Palace reopened on 13th August of this year, more than 19 thousand people have visited the palace-museum.

Earlier this month, restoration work on the Marble [nicknamed the Mountain Hall by Emperor Nicholas I, 1796-1855] was completed, which included the restoration of the artificial marble walls and fireplaces. In addition, the wooden slide [aka the roller coaster] has been recreated. However, visitors will not be allowed to use the slide. The Marble (Mountain) Hall which connects the Large Library with the Portraits Hall, is now included in the palace tour.

PHOTO: the Western Wing is currently surrounded by a fence during the second stage of the restoration of the Alexander Palace

The mountain slide was order in 1833 by Empress Alexandra Feodorovna [wife of Emperor Nicholas I] for the New Palace [Alexander Palace] at Tsarskoye Selo.

Following the completion of the parquet and other finishing works of the Marble Hall’s interior in 1843, the question of replacing the “mountain slide”, which had fallen into disrepair was discussed. In the report dated 18th March 1843, the architect I.Ye. Efimov notes that the existing foundation of the old hill, “was all split, the surface chipped in several places, out of which nails were dangerously exposed and thus beyond repair.”

Efimov announced that the cost to replace the wooden slide would be 500 rubles [a significant fee in the mid-19th century].

PHOTO: the Marble (Mountain) Hall as it looked before the Second World War

The Mountain Hall and its slide were enjoyed by the future Emperors Nicholas I, Alexander II and Alexander III, all of whom played on the hill as children. The Emperors, even after they became adults, periodically slid down the mountain they had enjoyed as children. For example, the educator of the future Alexander III S.A. Yuryevich wrote to his parents in 1847, after moving at the end of August from Peterhof to Tsarskoye Selo, anticipating “noisy games in the Mountain Hall”.

A member of the aristocracy noted in her memoirs how Emperor Alexander II invited her to the Alexander Palace as a child and invited her to play on the wooden mountain. She noted that Alexander II who was then 50 years old at the time “himself, slid down with his grandson in his arms.” It is worth noting that this particular grandson was the future Emperor Nicholas II.

The four daughters of Nicholas II and their brother Tsesarevich Alexei were the last of the August children who, played in the Mountain Hall. As in previous years, adults also entertained themselves on the slide with equal pleasure. In 1908, Lili Dehn, recalls riding with the Grand Duchesses “on the mountain slide, installed in one of the premises of the palace. We had fun for hours, getting great pleasure from the ride. I completely forgot that I was a married woman who was going to become a mother in a few months. ”

PHOTO: In the 1930s. the ceremonial dresses of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, the wife of Emperor Nicholas I, were exhibited in the Marble (Mountain) Hall

During the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), the Marble (Mountain) Hall was damaged during the Nazi occupation of Tsarskoye Selo.

Following the war, the Director of the Alexander Palace Anatoly Mikhailovich Kuchumov (1912-1993), describes the destruction of the Hall: “We go to the Hall with a slide … the amazing color of the marble is still pleasing , which is especially evident now that all the curtains have been removed. There is not even a trace of the hill, the mirrors have been ripped out, the marble fireplace is broken – the caryatids have all been stolen. The massive gilded frame from the picture hanging above the hill seems to have miraculously survived. The vault of the hall in one second has been damaged by dampness, since the roof over this hall was torn apart by a shell ”

© Paul Gilbert. 26 November 2021

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