Locals Fight Demolition With Vigil in St. Pete

MTThe Rogov House was built at the beginning of the 19th century, and until earlier this week it had retained many of the original details from that period.
ST. PETERSBURG — Concerned locals held a round-the-clock vigil in St. Petersburg as they attempted to prevent the demolition of a historic building.

Defenders of St. Petersburg’s cultural heritage set up camp near the Rogov House on the corner of Zagorodny Prospekt and Shcherbakov Pereulok earlier this week as attempts were made to knock down the building.

As every attempt was made, activists called police, who repeatedly came and stopped the work because the workers had no demolition permit.

Nevertheless, equipped with a hydraulic excavator, workers managed to almost completely destroy the top floor of the three-story historic building in one sweep last Saturday and two sweeps on Monday.

The protesters say the company Prestizh, which bought the right to develop the site from the city, deliberately started demolition work at the beginning of the long holiday weekend to complete demolition unhindered before a scheduled court hearing about the legality of stripping the Rogov House of its cultural heritage status could take place.

The company did not have permission to start demolition and will have to pay a fine of 50,000 rubles ($1,665), Vyacheslav Agapov, an official from the city’s construction watchdog, said at a news conference Thursday, Interfax reported.

The court hearing on the building’s status will now take place March 9, the agency reported.

Prestizh is planning to build a seven-story business center with underground parking on the site. The Rogov House, named after the merchant who built it in the late 18th to early 19th century, is the oldest building on Vladimirskaya Ploshchad. Located next to the Delvig House, it is valued as a relic of Pushkin-era St. Petersburg.

“The exact year of construction is unknown, which is often the case with buildings from that era,” Alexander Kononov, deputy chairman of the St. Petersburg branch of the Russian Association for the Protection of Monuments, said in a telephone interview. “It was built between 1798 and 1808, because on the 1798 map of St. Petersburg this building isn’t yet featured, but it is already on the 1808 map of St. Petersburg — with the same dimensions and configuration as it has now.”

The building is the oldest in the Vladimirskaya Ploshchad ensemble, Kononov said, older than the Delvig House, which was built from 1811 to 1813. But unlike the Delvig House, it has never undergone major renovation or reconstruction work. “It has all the authentic elements of construction and decor inside and out — the staircase and everything — including large wooden crossbeams,” he said.

The Rogov House has been under threat since the 1980s, when it was damaged during the construction of the Dostoevskaya metro station. Kononov insists that the building could have been restored, but City Hall’s heritage committee stripped it of its heritage status in November last year.

Prestizh was not available for comment, but news agency Rosbalt reported that the company’s general director, Dmitry Golovanov, said the building would be rebuilt after demolition.

Living City, a local preservationist organization, said more than 100 historic buildings have been destroyed in the center — including six on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare — since Governor Valentina Matviyenko took office in 2003.

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