The Nevsky Prospect is a famous street at the heart of St. Petersburg which hosts lots of historical or commercial buildings such as Kazan Cathedral, Stroganov Palace, Amusement Center, and Singer House inside it. The 4.5-kilometer street starts from Nevsky Square and ends at the sight of The Hermitage is one of the popular and busiest streets, and also the home of nightlife in St. Petersburg.
One of the most beloved buildings in this street would be the Singer House or Dom Knigi building which means the House of Books in Russian. This building which is exactly at the opposite of Kazan Cathedral is the largest bookstores in Russia and one of the largest in Europa as well but had another purpose at first.
At the site of the current building, there was the riding school of Ernst von Biron which was the favorite of Empress Anna at the time. And later, turned into the first-ever photography workshop of Sergey Levitsky in St. Petersburg, until 1902 when the famous international Sewing machine company, the Singer bought the building for one million Ruble price.
The company had plans to build a skyscraper similar to the company’s headquarter in New York, but the municipality denied the design of a skyscraper since it would be taller than the Winter Palace and that was against the city code. After denial of their plans, Pavel Syuzor with the help of Estonian artists Amandus Adamson found an astounding solution to their problems.
Syuzor designed a six-story building in the Art Nouveau style with a glass tower at the top to deceiving people that the building is taller than 23.5-meter limitation. This building was the first modern building in St. Petersburg, especially since all the buildings in the area were in classical style. The Singer House was the first structure to use metal frames, and that was the reason its giant windows on the ground floor didn't collapse. The glassful roof was another modernize thing that was new to St. Petersburg, with steam technology which can clean the roof automatically on snowy days. The elevator and air-conditioning were other modern types of equipment of the building.
During the First World War, the Singer Building was temporary the embassy of the USA. Shortly after the October Revolution, the Singer building nationalized and given to the Petrograd's publicists and quickly became the largest bookstore in Russia, and after years, in 1938, the name of the building changed into Dom Knigi or the House of Books. The Bookstore continues to work even during the invasion of St. Petersburg by the Nazi army, and even after the bomb dropped on the neighbor building and shattered Dom Knigi windows into dust. But, in 1941, it finally stops resistance and closed due to lack of electricity and heat. Though, the restoration immediately started after the war.
This building is one of the most beloved and favorite buildings in Nevsky street, beside a short period in the 40s and a two years gap at the beginning of the 21st century, continues to work no matter the circumstances, and that is the reason behind its popularity for the past 70 years in St. Petersburg. The building beside its modern and huge bookstore hosts a few publishers and The Singer Cafe as well.
If you have a soft spot for books and reading, in your flight to Russia and Saint Petersburg, you should ask your Russia tour administrators to provide you a couple of hours to check out the bookstore, and at the end, enjoy a perfect view of Kazan Cathedral alongside a cup of coffee or tea, before resuming your journey.
To find out more about Nevsky Street and the tourist-attractions inside it, check out our blog at Star Travel Group, especially our mini-guides to Russia and its tourist-target cities such as Travel to Russia and Visit Saint Petersburg pages.