St. Petersburg firefighters worked to save priceless historical architecture when a fire broke out at the Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace in the city center Tuesday.
Efforts by emergency services were praised by City Governor Georgy Poltavchenko, who said they had worked hard to prevent a dangerous situation getting out of control. “Their work today has saved one of the most unique buildings in the city,” he said.
The fire is believed to have started at about midday in a ventilation shaft and quickly spread to the palace’s attic and roof. The work of firefighters was significantly complicated by heavy smoke as well as the complex layout of the attic and old structure of the building, Interfax reported.
A towering plume of smoke above the Fontanka River quickly drew large crowds, eager to film the unfolding spectacle on their cell phones. As the number of onlookers grew, police were forced to hold up traffic along the embankment and parts of Nevsky Prospekt, and traffic jams rapidly formed.
By 2 p.m. the fire was under control. A preliminary assessment determined that no lasting damage had been done to the 18th-century landmark, officials said.
The pink rococo palace is located on the corner of Nevsky Prospekt and the Fontanka River. Built in 1747, it was originally designed to mirror the Stroganoff Palace on the corner of the Moika River and Nevsky Prospekt, and was used as a city retreat by members of the royal family for a number of years.
The historic building also went on to serve as a military hospital and district base for the Central Bolshevik Party before being officially presented to City Hall’s Culture Committee in 1991.
Its current occupants include the regional headquarters of Russian broadcaster Channel One and the Sobchak Museum of the Introduction of Democracy to Contemporary Russia.