How apartments were rented 100 years ago: What were the tenement houses for the elite and how the guests lived poorer
How apartments were rented 100 years ago: What were the tenement houses for the elite and how the guests lived poorer

Pre-revolutionary apartment buildings are a special topic and a special layer both in Russian architecture and in residential construction in general. In the late XIX - early XX century, the popularity of this trend began to grow so rapidly that houses for renting apartments and rooms for rent began to appear in large cities like mushrooms. Wealthy merchants understood that building such houses was a profitable business. It is very interesting what development this direction would have received further, but, alas, a revolution happened … Fortunately, we can still admire these beautiful architectural masterpieces.

Many interesting apartment buildings were built in St. Petersburg. The owners wanted to have not just typical apartment buildings, but houses that, with their beauty and chic, would emphasize the status and influence of the owner. Moreover, some of the owners themselves lived in their apartment buildings, occupying, for example, a separate floor. So the look was very important.

Eulers' apartment building

Some projects implemented in those days in the city on the Neva are especially beautiful and unusual. For example, Badaev's house, located at the intersection of two streets (address: Vosstaniya St., 19), is interesting for its asymmetry. The right wing is almost twice as long as the left. It looks more modest and lived in it, respectively, people of more modest income. And in the more pompous left wing, wealthier tenants settled.

House of Badayev in our century

The two so-called wings of this building were united by a graceful bas-relief: an angel girl. By the way, it was in the corner part of the house that the most luxurious apartments were located - multi-room ones. Doors to the front door for residents and their guests were opened here by doormen.

Fragment of the building: a bas-relief angel

The House with Towers (Rosenstein House) located on Tolstoy Square is made in the neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissance style. Outside, the building is luxuriously decorated, and the belvederes at the corners of the house are made in the form of hexagonal towers, for which the building was nicknamed "The House with Towers".

House with towers

Another interesting project of the apartment building is a building, one facade of which overlooks Rubinstein Street, and the other - to the Fontanka River embankment. By the name of the owner, the building was nicknamed "Tolstoy House". The project was essentially a whole residential complex.

Tolstoy House in 1912. Photo: K.K. Bull

When designing this house, it was immediately provided for the presence of a laundry, water supply, elevators. But the premises here were leased not only to the elite. There were also quite budget options - for poor people.

Tolstoy House today

Apartments in apartment buildings were usually rented out for at least a year. By the way, the tenant paid not only money for accommodation, but also tax - to the state treasury.

As in our time, the rental value of an apartment or room depended not only on living conditions, but also on where the house was located. And, just like today, the annual rent of an apartment could be equal to the salary of an average official, or it could be much higher.

An interesting archival document: Baka's apartment building on Kirochnaya, 24. Information about the tenants and the apartments they rented

A person with limited funds, but in dire need of housing (for example, a student or a young single low-level official) usually rented a room. More enterprising people did this: they rented a two- or three-room apartment in an apartment building, occupied one room in it, and subleased the rest of the area to a colleague or classmate.

Scheme of the first floor of the Tolstoy House

When concluding a contract, the tenant and the owner stipulated in the smallest detail what could be done on the rented area and what not. For example, a guest could be prohibited from keeping pets, smoking, playing a musical instrument, bringing strangers into the apartment, and so on.

Basin's apartment building on Ostrovsky Square

Elite apartment buildings were equipped with the latest technology: the guests had telephones, rooms for carriages and garages, laundries, and an elevator delivered to the required floor. Naturally, the house provided for gasification and heating. In addition, a wealthy apartment building usually had its own power plant.

The apartments had spacious rooms, high ceilings, and some of them even had a kitchenette in the kitchen.

In Engelhardt's chic house on Nevsky, the first floor was occupied by restaurants and shops, and the rest were occupied by guests

In St. Petersburg at the beginning of the last century, three-quarters of the total number of buildings were tenement houses. And how profitable this business was not only for businessmen who rented out apartments, but also for the state, can be seen on the example of Moscow. In 1913, the total income of the First See was 47 million rubles, 7 million of which were taxes paid by the owners of apartment buildings.

A significant contribution to the architectural appearance of the northern capital at the beginning of the last century was made by the father of St. Petersburg Art Nouveau Fyodor Lidval. We suggest reading more about some of his projects and find out why did the architect leave Russia who created a new look for St. Petersburg.

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