During the reign of Tsar Nicholas I, a new imperial residence appeared to the east of the Lower Park at Peterhof. In the early eighteenth century, Peter the Great had presented these lands to Prince Alexander Menshikov, who had built a dacha called Moncourage. After serving as the hunting ground of Anna Ioannovna in the 1730s, the estate was abandoned.

In August 1825, Alexander I presented the lands to his brother Nicholas. After Nicholas became tsar in 1825, he began building a new residence there. In 1829, the estate was given the name of “Alexandria” in honour of his wife, Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna.

Alexandria was a place of rolling hills and ravines, groves and meadows. Everywhere had views of the sea. This picturesque setting inspired the creative fantasy of the Scottish architect Adam Menelaws.

In 1825, Nicholas I gave clear and simple instructions to Adam Menelaws: “To build, on the site of the Menshikov ruins, a small rural house or ‘cottage,’ with the accompanying auxiliary structures, joining it to the park.” In other words, the architect was asked to design a suburban residence in an English landscape garden.

After building the Cottage, Adam Menelaws created several other edifices at Alexandria. He designed the Farm and oversaw the construction of a private place of worship called the Gothic Chapel. The park was dotted with thickets, bridges, ponds and various Neo-Gothic structures, including a well, summerhouse and guardhouse. Nicholas I liked it all so much that he made Alexandria the permanent summer residence of the imperial family from 1832.

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