Shah Palace Odesa
Crowning the abrupt precipice in the historical part of the city, the Shah Palace is rightly considered to be one of the most beautiful and magnificent edifices in Odesa. Constructed in uncharacteristic for Odesa Neo-Gothic style, it stands out against other age-old buildings of the city and represents town's true adornment that locals boast about and guests are amazed at over more than one and a half century.
The intricate building of the palace was constructed in 1852 to a design by the architect, Felix Gonsiorowski, for his compatriot, Polish tycoon, Zenon Brżozowski. It emerged on the site of the proposed military hospital, whose construction took longer than planned due to uncertain reasons. Therefore the half-finished building was pulled down. As of today it is a two-storey limestone palace faced with Inkerman stone. Its shapes and decorations are reminiscent of medieval English castles, by which perhaps the architect was inspired. Its thick walls are crowned by battlement turrets, cut with big ogival windows and arches that imitate the castle style.
Making client wishes come true, the architect designed the palace to produce the biggest impressions from the seaside. It was a perimeter formed by four buildings. There was an open-loop patio in the middle that leaded to the area once featured the fountain. Formerly it was accessible through the monumental arch that imitated medieval turret with wicket gate modeled after drawbridge.
Zenon Brżozowski’s family lived here until 1910, after that the mansion was purchased by Polish count, Józef Schonbek. He turned it into the lodging house.
Ten consecutive years, the palace was rented by Persian sash, Mohammed Ali, who was dethroned, banished from his own country, and then he settled down in Odesa. His personality served as a base for the majority of rumours and legends of the palace. They say that upon moving to Odesa, the sash didn’t give up his Oriental customs and decided to organize a harem. He had a habit to get rid of guilty concubines from the ground floor balcony instead of saying them goodbye at the front door.
It was a great moral for other girls and a fine amusement for locals. Also, the citizens of Odesa fell in love with overseas guest for his generosity – every time he went out to the city, he would give a lot of presents to everyone who was met at his path. Since then, the locals nicknamed this edifice the Shah Palace. It is known under this name as of today.
In 1920, after Mohammed Ali had left Odesa, the mansion welcomed the House of People’s Arts. Its activities negatively affected on the state of the building. The palace’s exterior was kept almost unchanged, unlike interiors of this old building that were ruined, including tiled stoves, marble fireplaces, decorative parquet. Only the main staircase and the lobby survived.
Literary Museum (Palace of Gagarin Family)
The Odesa Literary Museum is one of the largest specialized museums in the country and one of the most famous and visited in the city. It occupies the former palace, once property of Prince Dmitry Gagarin. Towered above steep slope in the historical center of Odesa, not far away from Opera House, the awe-inspiring edifice is considered the significant architectural monument. It represents another attraction of the Southern Palmira.
Built to a design by Ludwig Otton in the middle of 19th century, the gala mansion of Gagarin Family was constructed in then-popular eclectic style with classical predominance. Faced on to the seaside, the massive edifice with high foundations, large arched windows and turrets-shaped balconies is reminiscent of a severe medieval castle.
The reserved exterior of the mansion is contrasted with luxurious, rich interiors that has survived until now almost unchanged. They impress with unusual combination of styles – the decorations of the palace’s halls feature classic, baroque and Empire elements. Accessible by large forked marble staircase, the second floor numbers main rooms. The most prominent among them is the Golden Hall, decorated with stucco work and gilding. They say that once the great Hungarian composer and pianist, Franz Liszt, gave a concert in this very hall.
In 1898, the Gagarin donated their mansion to the city. Over several years it housed Odesa Literary Artistic Society, which numbered writers, musicians, artists and journalists. In 1984, the former Palace was turned into the Literary Museum. Its exposition has more than six thousand exhibits, located chronologically in 10 rooms. They tell the history of the literary Odesa. Each hall is an image of certain epoch that influences its interior decorated with original things of Palace of Gagarin Family.
One might learn life and work of more than 300 hundred writers, whose names are linked to Odesa. Alexander Pushkin, Adam Mickiewicz, Nikolai Gogol, Ilf and Petrov, Anna Akhmatova, Leo Tolstoy, etc are among them. The museum features rare books, lifetime editions of writers of 19th and 20th centuries, autographs and manuscripts of many famous writers, their personal belongings, photographs, archival documents about the life and work of the literary representatives of Odesa. The collection of wax dolls of Odesa artist, Mikhail Komomyya, is also showcased in the museum. These exhibits are the parodies of well-known political and public figures of today.
The Italian-inspired patio with flower beds and fountain is next to the building of Literary Museum. It features the so-called Garden of Sculptures. It is a unique cultural project of contemporary sculptors that has humorous statues devoted to literary protagonists and iconic characters of urban legends. Also one can admire Kuman and Scythian babas, monuments of ancient sculpture of the Northern Black Sea Coast.
Flat House Odesa
The Flat House is perhaps the most unusual building in Odesa, its architectural highlight that gathers crowds of tourists all year long. Located in the very center of the city, a stone’s throw from the famous monument to Duke de Richelieu, this building with unique structure is very popular among locals, who are keen on brining the Southern Palmira’s guests here and watch their puzzled reaction. The thing is when one stands in front of the house it seems to be the ordinary old one with fine hammered balconies, original cornices and stucco work on its walls. It doesn’t differ much from the rest of the edifices of the Odesa historical part.
But if one looks at it at the certain angle, the house will present a new image of itself – it gives an impression of being completely flat as though the house features only facade wall. The interesting visual effect is caused by an unusual architecture of the edifice. It lacks the back wall, and lateral ones are next to the main facade at an acute angle therefore the building has triangular structure. Because of this architectural feature, the building was nicknamed the Flat House. The same reason serves as a basis for mystical properties and sometimes the edifice is named the Witch’s House.
It's uncertain when this original building was constructed in Odesa. It's believed that the house was built in the end of 19th century, and its first residents were courtiers of count Vorontsov, whose palace stands nearby. Moreover the history lacks the name of an architect, who designed Odesa architectural masterpiece. According to the most common version that is to explain a unique peculiarity of the building, the architect faced the lack of money during the construction, so it was decided to adjoin two lateral walls and save some money on the back one.
Nevertheless, there is one more explanation of the architecture: they say it was a lack of land and impossibility to violate the historical facade of the street that is why the architect was obliged to use such an unconventional structure of the house. The Flat House, or the Wall-House, another nickname of the building, is notable not only for its exterior. Despite being of advanced age, caring residents achieved to keep its old interiors intact: hammered handrails, marble staircases, flawless stucco work on the ceilings.