In 1711, Peter the Great presented an estate at the spot where the River Neva flowed into the Gulf of Finland to his wife Catherine. Unlike such official residences as Peterhof and Oranienbaum, Ekaterinhof was distinguished for its simplicity and modesty. Lying on the bank of the River Ekaterinhofka, it consisted of a small two-floor wooden palace.

The foundations of the palace were laid in 1711, when work also began on a regular park. There was a parterre garden with two summerhouses and trellises in front of the palace and a forest with a small clearing at the back. As was the fashion during the reign of Peter I, guests arrived at the palace by sailing up a canal and mooring at the landing wharf in front of the main entrance.

Ekaterinhof was one of Peter the Great’s favourite places of relaxation, where he went to escape affairs of state in the company of family and friends. In the late 1710s, the emperor built two nearby estates for his daughters – Annenhof and Elisavethof – which were later merged with Ekaterinhof.

In the mid-eighteenth century, the Ekaterinhof Park was transformed into a place where the people of St Petersburg could go to relax in the summer. The season traditionally opened on May Day, when the park attracted many visitors, including members of the aristocracy and the imperial family.

The palace was considerably expanded by the addition of two side wings between 1747 and 1749. They were dismantled in 1779, returning the building to its original appearance.

In 1800, Paul I presented the estate to his lover, Princess Anna Gagarina. After his murder in 1801, the palace and park were awarded to the municipal authorities in 1804.

The Ekaterinhof Park was expanded in the early 1820s by Auguste de Montferrand, who planted fresh greenery and built wooden pavilions in various architectural styles. Traditional log houses were built as a cafe and restaurant.

A museum of the personal effects of Peter the Great was opened inside the palace. By 1876, the garden pavilions had fallen into a state of dilapidation and were dismantled.

Over time, as St Petersburg expanded, Ekaterinhof became an industrial suburb of the Russian capital. The park fell into neglect after the palace burnt down in 1924.

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