Dacha of Nicholas II’s court architect in Tsarskoye Selo to be auctioned

PHOTO: the former dacha of Court architect Silvio Danini in Tsarskoye Selo, as it looks today – in a “deplorable state of disrepair”.

The former dacha of Tsar Nicholas II’s Court architect Silvio Amvrosievich Danini (1867-1942), built at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries is to be auctioned in Tsarskoye Selo.

The dacha was part of a complex of buildings constructed by Danini himself between 1899-1902, which included two-story “Large” and “Small” dachas, a stone service wing and a barn. A richly landscaped garden was also laid out. The “Large” dacha featured turrets, bay windows, the timber facades embellished with decorative elements.

The opening bid for the 6500 square foot wooden dacha is set at 18.66 million rubles [$238,000 USD]. The auction will be held on 23rd June. Under the terms of the agreement of sale, the buyer must agree to restore and preserve the buildings historic look, and to be completed within seven years from the date of registration of the transfer of ownership.

PHOTO: early 20th century view of Silvio Danini’s estate at Tsarskoye Selo

Danini’s “Large” dacha is located on Pavlovskoye highway, 26A in Pushkin [Tsarskoye Selo], a short drive from the Alexander Palace. Having received the post of architect of the Tsarskoye Selo Palace Administration in 1896, Danini rented a small house for his family. By 1899, the architect decided to buy the property and build a larger house.

During the Soviet period the building was used as the Pushkin Palace Administration, and then as a dormitory of the Institute of Economics. After repairs in the 1970s, it was used as a branch of the Institute of Agricultural Cybernetics, then by the Agricultural Institute. In the 1990s, it served as a resident for scientists.

The property was abandoned more than a decade ago. Since that time several unsuccessful attempts have been made to sell and restore the historic dacha.

In August 2016, Danini’s dacha was listed as “an object of cultural heritage of regional significance” by the Committee for State Control, Use and Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments (KGIOP).

In 2020 a plan to open an eight-room hotel was proposed, however, nothing ever came of the idea due to lack of funding by developers.

According to the daughter of the great-grandson of the architect Vera Kozlova, the wooden dacha is currently is in a “deplorable state of disrepair”.

PHOTO: Silvio Amvrosievich Danini (1867-1942)

The Last Court Architect

Silvio (Valentin) Amvrosievich Danini was born in Kharkov on 1st July (O.S. 19th June) 1867.

He was born in the family of Italian opera singer Ambrogio Danini (1807-1872) and his wife Emilia. In 1893, Silvio married the Lutheran Vera Stuckenberg (1874-1944), the couple had four children, whose descendants today live in St. Petersburg.

In 1879, after the death of his father, Silvio and his mother Emilia moved to Poltava, and in 1886 to St. Petersburg, where in 1892 he graduated from the Academy of Arts with the title of “Class Artist of the 1st degree”.

He began his career under the guidance of the architect Alexander Fyodorovich Krasovsky (1848-98), abd participated in the restructurtion of the northwestern wing of the Winter Palace for the future emperor Nicholas II. As a result, in 1892 he was hired to repair, and then reconstruct with extensions, the Znamenskaya Church in Tsarskoye Selo. In 1894 he restored the Catherine Cathedral in Tsarskoye Selo. In 1896, the Nicholas II personally appointed Danini architect of the Tsarskoye Selo Palace Administration, and on 5th October 1911, he was awarded the title of Chief Architect of the Imperial Court.

Danini was responsible for the construction of more than 40 buildings in Tsarskoye Selo [renamed Pushkin in 1937] – many of which have survived to the present day.

He is probably more widely known for his development of the Alexander Palace – the last residence of Nicholas II and his family, from 1905 to 1917 – which included:

1896-1898 – reconstruction of the left [eastern] wing of the Alexander Palace for the personal apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, and the construction of an underground passage-gallery between the palace and the Palace Kitchen.

PHOTO: view of the famous Alexander Palace balcony (circa 1940s)

Danini was also responsible for the installation of the famous balcony in 1896 for Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. It was here that many iconic photos of the Imperial Family were taken. The balcony was dismantled between 1947-49.

1896-1898 – the wrought iron gate at the entrance to the park to the Alexander Palace, which has been preserved.

1906-1907 – the Imperial Garage, which housed Nicholas II’s motorcars, which has also been preserved.

After the revolution, in 1923, Danini moved to Petrograd, where he designed hydraulic structures on the Svir River. Silvio Danini died in Leningrad on 11th January 1942 during the siege (his wife and daughter Virginia were later evacuated). He was buried at the Volkovsky Lutheran Cemetery in the family grave of the Stuckenbergs.

© Paul Gilbert. 13 May 2023