There is a place in St Petersburg which bears the name of “Islands” since the XVIII century named Elagin Island. The Islands remained almost untouched by rapidly developing urban construction and preserved a peaceful charm, being a favorite place of rest and relaxation for the inhabitants of St Petersburg, inspiring poets and artists with its landscapes.
The northern one of these islands is Elagin. Elagin Island Palace and Park Ensemble is the only one of the Islands preserved in its entirety and not disturbed by later reconstruction The ensemble occupies the whole territory of the island and covering 96 hectares, including 9 artificial ponds. The western cape of the island is facing the Gulf of Finland (with amazing sunsets), the eastern one the division of two branches of Neva River.
The very first owner of the Elagin Island was Peter the Great’s diplomat Shafirov. After that island changed hands between many owners including a secret husband of Catherine II, Count Potyomkin (he bought it in 1777 with the help of the Empress hoping noone could disturb their seclusion, but because of coolness of their relations he sold island to Ivan Elagin in the same year).
Elagin had an outstanding literature talent, wrote poetry, translated (supposedly it was he who corrected the style for the works of Empress written in Russian). It was in the times of Elagin when the construction of the manor began (about 1783).
During 13 years after death of Elagin the island has changed between 3 owners and at last, when it became property of the Romanov royal family, Italian architect Rossi reconstructed Elagin’s manor turning it in to lovely summer palace for Maria Fyodorovna, widow of Paul I and mother of Alexander I. The widowed empress had her favorite residence in Pavlovsk, but over the course of time it became more and more difficult for her to get there (Pavlovsk is situated approximately 28 kilometers from the downtown of St Petersburg).
Young Rossi managed to change the island having subordinated everything to a common artistic idea. He worked on Elagin Island in collaboration with a group of splendid architects, sculptors, and masters of applied arts. Currently the Park and Palace include numerous places of interest including: an ensemble which is teaching young children and adults various ballroom dances in the beautiful rooms of the palace which are now museum halls), service buildings such as the Kitchen (a true architectural masterpiece), the Stable , The Orangery (which now includes absolutely magnificent exhibition of the St Petersburg Glass Factory), park pavilions – Musical, Pavilion under a flag, Guardhouse and the park of course. The park designed by English garden master Joseph Bush and gardener / botanist Buk who became (and still remains) a favorite place of walks and recreation by citizens and visitors of all ages who are in St Petersburg.