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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Manor Revived as an Award Winning Hotel

For MTHotel owner Ivan Sinyushkin.
There are not many new hotels in Russia that receive preservation awards.

The new Moskva hotel is appearing on the site of the old one, much to the consternation of architecture preservation activists, while the Ritz-Carlton hotel, despite its exterior selection of the best of architecture from centuries past, is a shiny new replacement for the Soviet-era monstrosity, the Intourist.

But when the Cultural Heritage Awards handed out their gongs in Moscow last month, it was a hotel that received a prize.

If you have never been to Rostov, then you are unlikely to have heard of Pleshanov Manor and how a hotel saved this 19th-century building.

The Pleshanov Manor was built by one of the small town's most famous merchants, known for his charitable works. A simple, three-story merchant house, it was lying in ruin when local businessman Ivan Sinyushkin bought it for a nominal sum in 2001.

The house sits on the main street of Rostov, a Golden Ring town that has long been one of the first places a tourist heads for after leaving Moscow. But like many tourist towns, Rostov now suffers from a lack of hotel rooms.

Sinyushkin spent three years and millions of rubles restoring the listed building. The protected status meant Sinyushkin was limited by law in what he could do to the building.

Undeterred, he dug through the archives and studied the history of the house to rebuild it -- a rare example of history ruling the construction of a hotel, rather than the other way round.

For MT
The Pleshanov Manor, situated on Rostov's main road, was lying in ruins when Sinyushkin purchased it in 2001.
"The atmosphere of the historic merchant estate has been completely restored in its interiors," the Rebirth of the Russian Country Estate foundation said in a statement announcing Sinyushkin and his team as winners of the National Cultural Heritage Award last month. "The inn has greatly contributed to upgrading the building environment, and to preserving and promoting the cultural character of the city."

"Ivan took an object in ruins and resurrected it," said Gennady Oinas, vice president of the foundation. "It is very delicate. ... You know it is a hotel, but it has a historical aura."

As well as the 22 rooms, which cost from 1,200 rubles ($46) to 2,750 rubles per night, the hotel has a blacksmith, a workshop where traditional Russian chests are made, and a small museum.

"It is a very good example," said Oinas. "Not only has it been returned to life, but it brings in a profit."

Another entrepreneur working on a similar project is Sergei Sazonov, a former museum worker and historian who worked with Sinyushkin on the hotel's museum section.

Sazonov's company, Heritage, has four ongoing projects to turn historical buildings in the provinces into hotels. The projects are timely, he says, because recent years have seen an increase in Russian tourists traveling within their own country.

The hotels in Uglich and Yaroslavl are in areas close enough for Muscovite tourists to visit for the weekend. Farther afield is a hotel in the Kostroma region that Sazonov say has good prospects because it is on the edge of the taiga and a perfect hunter's getaway.

Oinas admits that the Pleshanov Manor and Sazonov's plans are rare examples, saying that unless the government gives people incentives to buy and restore buildings, it will be difficult to attract business to historical buildings.

Mikhail Lermontov, a descendant of the 19th-century novelist, told Vedomosti that there were 100 historical estates in Moscow region that could be used for tourist activities, including hotels.

But businesses are not running to snap them up just yet, and even Sinyushkin conceded that it would have been cheaper to knock the building down and build something shiny and new.