Designed by the Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi and completed in 1796, Alexander Palace housed three generations of Russian monarchs before it was abandoned by the royal family in the months preceding the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Built on the order of Catherine the Great as a gift to her grandson Alexander I, the palace is in Tsarskoe Selo, a 1,500-acre imperial estate near St. Petersburg. The building was later used as a summer residence by Alexander’s brother, Nicolas I, and then by his nephew, Tsar Nicolas II. In 1917, the royal family was expelled from the palace by order of Alexander Kerensky, head of the provisional government. Nicholas II and his family were executed by the Bolshevik regime one year later. From then until World War II the palace remained uninhabited; it functioned as a museum until occupying German forces converted the building into their military headquarters. Alexander Palace later served as a naval command base and research station, until the mid-1990s when we assisted with efforts to convert the palace into a museum.
Parts of Alexander Palace had fallen into serious disrepair by 1994 when it garnered local interest as a potential museum. We provided funds toward assessments and planning for public access to a suite of rooms to be used as museum space. Shortly after its inclusion on the 1996 World Monuments Watch, the palace was added to the list of institutions operated by the Museum-Preserve of Tsarskoe Selo, which agreed to manage the upkeep of the property and its tourist facilities. In September 1996, we helped with emergency renovations to the roof over the Nicholas II wing of the palace, comprising approximately one-third of the building’s total roof structure. Alexander Palace is now an exhibition space dedicated to the final years of Tsarist Russia, and houses a collection of Nicholas II’s personal effects and historical documents.
An important national heritage site
One of the few Tsarist residences left relatively intact following World War II, Alexander Palace provides a window into royal life during pre-communist Russia. For its historical value as the setting of Nicholas II’s final years, and for its artistic merits as a much-celebrated work of sumptuously decorated neoclassical architecture, the palace is an important national heritage site.