The Lower Dacha of Peterhof Palace (now destroyed), Source Vitold Muratov

The Lower Dacha of Peterhof Palace, the Imperial Family’s residence for part of the summer, was the birthplace of Tsesarevich Aleksey in 1904, as well as the birthplace of Grand Duchesses Mariya (1899) and Anastasiya (1901). Summer in Russia may be a welcome relief from the endless winter, but the heat in St. Petersburg and Tsarskoye Selo drove the Imperial Family to spend summers aboard their yacht Shtandart, in their Livadiya Palace in the Crimea, and at Peterhof on the Gulf of Finland.


Lower Dacha, circa 1900

Peterhof Palace is a grand, sprawling complex which was constructed for Peter the Great, in the Russian city of Petergof. In Imperial times, it was called Peterhof, after the Dutch word Pieterhof, Peter’s Court. This complex has been nicknamed the Russian Versailles. The Lower Dacha was in the Lower Gardens, in the Aleksandriya Park, near a large greenhouse. The area has many fountains, just as the Upper Gardens. Though it’s alternately called the Lower Palace, it was more like a mid-sized villa.


Lower Dacha interior, Source http://www.flickr.com/photos/99377981@N03/15123733991/

The Lower Dacha was built in Italian Renaissance style, and constructed from 1883–86. It replaced an old telegraphic signal tower which was razed in August 1882 due to disrepair. During its construction, in 1884, the young Tsesarevich Nikolay and Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine wrote their names on the dacha’s back window. Thus, the couple felt a lot of emotional attachment towards this place.


Lower Dacha, 1915

Because the existing building was so small, Nicholas ordered it expanded in 1895. Architect Anton Osipovich Tomishko (whose name suggests Ukrainian ancestry) added a new wing to the east of the dacha, and connected the two structures with a passage over an arched porte cochère (covered passageway large enough for vehicles). The cellars were linked with corridors dug in the foundation. The Lower Dacha had four stories, with small rooms and narrow staircases added without rhyme or reasons. Needless to say, it wasn’t designed or executed very well.


Tsesarevich Aleksey (second from right on the wagon) and friends at the Lower Dacha

The Lower Dacha was made of yellow and red brick, with an Italianate tower predominating. The edifice also had pilasters, loggias, columns, and window surrounds of grey Putilov stone. Its roofs were of varying heights, steeply-pitched and on heavily-bracketed eaves, punctuated by little dormer windows and elaborate chimneys of red and yellow terra-cotta. It might not have been much on the inside, but it was pretty on the outside. Inside, Art Nouveau predominated, the style notoriously preferred by Empress Aleksandra.

Unfinished, undelivered Constellation Fabergé egg (1917), featuring Aleksey’s Sun sign of Leo, Copyright user:shakko

Though any astrology devotée will tell you Sun sign astrology is far from the whole picture (and that those silly newspaper horoscopes are vague nonsense), one’s Sun sign still gives a nice general idea of what a person is like. Aleksey matched a lot of Leo characteristics, which would indicate his Sun sign wasn’t masked by a strong rising sign (as Virgo does to my Sagittarius), nor by a planet directly influencing Leo (as all my Sagittarius placements have more of a Piscean feel, since Neptune directly influenced Sagittarius in 1979).

Leo, the lion, is a fire sign, and very outgoing, with a magnanimous personality, self-confident, independent, brave, ambitious, strong-willed, a born leader, inspiring loyalty, knowing exactly what one wants and how to get it, idealistic, humanitarian, beneficent, intelligent, sincere, warm-hearted, kindly, autocratic, arrogant, haughty, boastful, bombastic, and obstinate. Leos strongly dislike the ordinary, doing things safely, small-mindedness, mean-spiritedness, and frugality. Every sign has both negative and positive traits, and must learn how to master the evil inclination and channel those negative characteristics for the good.

Other side of Constellation egg, Copyright user:shakko

8 thoughts on “The Lower Dacha of Peterhof and Leo

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