Adam Menelaws

Adam Menelaws
Born: circa 1753, Edinburgh (?)
Died: 1831, St Petersburg

Very little is known about the early biography of Adam Menelaws, who was probably born in Edinburgh around 1753. He came to Russia in 1779 at the request of Charles Cameron, who was looking for skilled construction workers.

Menelaws is described in the archive documents as a stonemason who built vaults and ceilings. He later left the service of Cameron and began working for the Russian architect and inventor Nikolai Lvov.

Adam Menelaws mostly designed houses and landscape gardens for the Russian aristocracy. In the 1810s, he built the Arsenal and the Chapel in the Alexander Park at Tsarskoe Selo. One of his greatest creations was the Egyptian Gates at the entrance to Tsarskoe Selo.

Menelaws is best known for creating the Cottage in the Gothic Revival style between 1826 and 1829. Intended as a place of summer relaxation for the family of Tsar Nicholas I, the building stands in the eastern section of Alexandria Park in Peterhof on the Gulf of Finland.

Adam Menelaws also designed the parquet floors in the Cottage, which was the favourite suburban residence of the last four generations of the Romanov dynasty. Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna was born there on 1 June 1882 – the first child to be born “in the purple” since the seventeenth century.

Between 1828 and 1831, Menelaws worked on another project for Nicholas I not far from the Cottage. This was the Farm, which was originally intended for keeping cattle and housing cowherds.

As the imperial family grew in size in the 1830s, it was decided to turn the Farm into a residence for the eldest children of Nicholas I. For many years, this building was the summer residence of the future Tsar Alexander II.

Tsar Nicholas I particularly appreciated the Scottish architect’s subtle knowledge of garden architecture and his ability to blend elegant houses into parkland. Adam Menelaws died of cholera in St Petersburg in 1831.

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