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The city of Shlisselburg was founded by Peter the Great in 1702, but it stands today only as a monument to its former glory. However, Shlisselburg is an artefact which calls for care and esteem. In this regard we were very lucky to have a possibility to reconstruct the former merchant house – an architectural monument by a miracle preserved at the source of Neva on the Ladoga coast. By the beginning of the 21st century the former merchant house had become private property. At this time all the supple lines were cut off and the building could be found in utter desertion. Only the separate details of the facade and the staircase decorations kept the allure of the former splendour of the house. Fortunately, the living great-grandson of the merchant, Valery Petrovich Guttakovsky, had saved the family archives and handed the history of the house – letters, photos, family tree, family legends and everyday objects preserved by the merchant’s descendants – to the new owners of the house.
The three-storey stone house is located on the front line of the northern side of Chekalova Street (formerly named Bogojavlensky Prospect) at the north-western part of Shlisselburg at the beginning of the Novoladozhsky channel named after Emperor Alexander the Second. This house built at the source of Neva is considered to be a classical example of a merchant stone residential house typical for the historical centre of Shlisselburg of the second part of the 19th century.

The merchant Alexey Potashov (1837–1898)  began building the house for his family in 1858. By the end of the 19th century, the Potashov family had constructed several buildings on the Bogojavlensky Prospect. Only the merchant family house and the adjoining former horse stable building remain today. The Potashov trotters were frequent winners of Parisian races. Nowadays the former building of the horse stables is the office of the state fish inspection service. The Potashov family members were fishermen, constructors, teachers, librarians and actors. In the late 19th century Andrey Potashov, one of the sons of Alexey Potashov, cast the bell for the Schlisselburg’s Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior. The daughter of Alexey Potashov, Klavdia Potashova, was known under the name of Ramenskaya in the Bolshoi Drama Theatre where she worked in the 1920 – 30s. In the Shlisselburg merchant house she gave birth to Natalia Aleksandrovna Kamkova – a student of Agrippina Vaganova. In 2007 the ballet world celebrated the 100th anniversary of Natalia Kamkova, famous ballerina of the Kirovsky Theatre. In 1918 the Potashovs lost their fortune and were exiled to Mujnak (the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic).

In the Soviet period the merchant house accommodated various state organisations, which constantly altered the interior of the house. We can find out some information about those who inhabited the house during the Soviet period significant for the history of Shlisselburg thanks to the memorial tablets on the facades of the building. One of the tablets memorializes the name of a revolutionary Nikolay Chekalov. He headed the party movement of workers and soldiers’ delegates, and the merchant house became the headquarters for them after the events of 1917. People of the new century still remember the feat of Anatoly Bonin during the Great Patriotic War and place the flowers to his memorial tablet. This Hero of the Soviet Union graduated from a factory school, which was located in the merchant house till 1941. The last state “lodger” of the building was the Baltic shipping company communication centre that provided safe water way for vessels along Neva to the Ladoga Lake.
In 2008-2009 the merchant house was reconstructed taking into consideration its historical role in establishing the Shlisselburg’s urban environment. The Department of State Protection for Preservation and Usage of Cultural Heritage Sites approved the project which recovered the original look of the facade – the central attic was recreated, the facade decorations were finished with lime plaster, walls were painted in ochre with light details. The interior was re-configured in order to respond to all the new tasks of the house but the original position of internal walls was left without changes and the existing apertures were opened. The staircase made of Putilovo stone slabs and the banister kept in the original look. The design of the rooms is stylised in accordance with the style typical for Russian merchant houses with usage of original everyday objects which belonged to the Potashov family.

In the end of 2009 a new page in the life of the old building was opened. Today the merchant house at the source of Neva, i.e. Shlisselburg Guest House is a hotel, a restaurant, a wellness complex, a beauty salon, an exhibition and conference hall, library, an historical and ethnographic museum and a scientific and educational centre, all at the same time.

… As per the merchant Potashov descendants’ recollection, the house was always filled with the pleasure of dialogue with dear friends; it was the shelter of calmness, work and inspiration. The authors of the historical building reconstruction project aimed to bring the unique house to a new life. For the candle not to be gone out.

© Natalia Sinichkina,

Shlisselburg Guest House Managing Director




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