If you’re mad about architecture and really like how Singer House on Nevsky Avenue looks, you absolutely need to see ‘Au Pont Rouge’ department store, located close to the Moyka River. Its French name meaning it is built near Red Bridge (Pont Rouge in French) over the canal in Saint Petersburg, brings to life the statement this building was erected strictly for trading, and now serves as the kingdom of commerce perfectly.
In 1905, the land occupied by ‘Au Pont Rouge’ department store, was bought by Belgian-Austrian entrepreneur Stefan Esders who had a big sewing factory in Brussels and his nephew Karl Scheefhals from the Netherlands. They got permission to build the five-storey building with a mansard there, which was completed by 1907. Their goal was to sell their modern clothes for women and men, as Stefan Esders did in other European cities, such as Rotterdam, Vienna, and Paris.
From Singer House on Nevsky Avenue, which had been opened back then, they adopted the idea of erecting the edifice using the metal framework. The facade of ‘Au Pont Rouge’ department store is not as sumptuous as the one of Singer House, but it also has its grace and elegance. I think the best thing about it is the spire made in the shape of the caduceus, i.e. staff Hermes, or Mercury, an ancient god of commerce, had.
Until this building showed up, there weren’t any multi-storey shops in Saint Petersburg. ‘Au Pont Rouge’ became the first shopping space of its kind, including the fact people could buy there everything they needed in terms of clothes, accessories, and other goods of luxurious origin. For ten years passed from 1907 till October Revolution, ‘Au Pont Rouge’ department store was a place for wealthy audience. Even its interior with big windows bringing light inside was considered to be perfect for those who wanted to feel themselves as if they were visiting some grand magasin (French for ‘department store’) in Paris.
After the October Revolution, ‘Au Pont Rouge’ department store was closed for somewhat like a year and a half. But the fact it hosted some tailor’s workshops helped to decide which institution would occupy the building. So, during the Soviet era, it became home to a sewing factory. In the 1930s, the spire was removed, and there are different versions of why it was done. According to one of them, it overshadowed the Admiralty building and influenced the whole view of Gorokhovaya Street, one of the most important avenues in Saint Petersburg, not in a good way.
After restoration which began in 2009, ‘Au Pont Rouge’ department store was reborn as the Phoenix. The tower with caduceus was revived, as well as many writings on building’s walls in pre-revolutionary Russian and French. Now, one floor is dedicated to the correspondent type of goods. Beauty products and accessories are sold on the 1st floor, books are at the 2nd one. On the 3rd floor, you can find clothes by foreign designers, and clothes by Russian designers are on the 4th floor. 5th and 6th floors are dedicated to goods sold with a discount.
Being a true kingdom of commerce, ‘Au Pont Rouge’ department store in Saint Petersburg today draws the attention of those who love spending money for things of premium quality. But apart from it, its building is amazing, and it’s so good to take pictures of it, especially during blue hour, when day becomes night. It’s really worth seeing.
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