The «St. Petersburg Kaleidoscope from Home» project. Siegel House

11 June 2020

Marata Street is a special street for St. Petersburg. Glorified by artists and poetized in city ballads, one of the oldest streets of St. Petersburg, it leads away from the sparkling Nevsky Prospekt towards the former working class outskirts. Walking leisurely along the long lanes of tenement houses, you can clearly see how Petersburg changed, how the aristocratic city turned into a city of industrialists and merchants - into the business capital of the Russian Empire.

One house is especially noteworthy on Marat Street. Quite small, in comparison with its neighbors, it surprises with the architectural decoration, characteristic more likely for France at the beginning of the 16th century than for Russia during the period of nascent capitalism. This is the own house of Siegel’s manufacturer (63 Marata Street), built for him by the project of architect Ieronim Kitner.

Kurt Siegel, a native of Leipzig, was a mechanical engineer by profession. In his native Saxony, he mastered all the intricacies of producing complex devices for supplying water and gas, as well as water heating. The enormous prospects opening up for such specialists in Russia encouraged him to move to the rapidly growing Petersburg, where there was a large community of immigrants from German lands. Here he settled down and opened his own profitable business. Typically for the “Russian Germans” of St. Petersburg, Siegel, retaining the Lutheran faith, acquired a Russian patronymic and became known as Kurt Bogdanovich. Having extensive business connections in Europe and America, he gained access to the most advanced technologies for that time. Indeed, bathrooms equipped with hot and cold water mixers, and, of course, ingenious plumbing fixtures were then new and seemed like a real miracle. This has become the main focus of the company.

In 1877, an enterprising Saxon founded the «K. Siegel» mechanical plant in St. Petersburg. The place for the production premises of the plant was chosen on a large site, where the garden of the merchant Maria Sidorova was previously located. In place of the beds that supplied the city markets with cabbage and carrots, the brick walls of the workshops grew.

But the most interesting thing began later, when Siegel decided to build his own home. His mansion gained fame as one of the most original houses in St. Petersburg. The architect Ieronim Kitner created, at the request of the customer, a two-story masterpiece resembling a small castle - these stand on the banks of the Loire in France. The house was built with unplastered brick walls, which in St. Petersburg of those years was accepted only when erecting industrial buildings or barracks. But after the Siegel’s mansion was finished in 1890, the newspapers wrote about it and, most importantly, an article with a photograph of the house appeared in the magazine “Architect”. The fashion for the so-called “brick” style spread around Russia. Everyone paid attention to how the brickwork perfectly combines visually with decorative elements of the Neo-Renaissance style, how organically and easily small turrets, bay windows, stucco plastic and openwork lace of the cast-iron grates on the basis of a simple brick are perceived.

An important argument in favor of the "brick" style was its profitability. Innovative entrepreneurs, including Kurt Siegel, appreciated it not only from the aesthetic, but also from the practical side. No plastering, no often painting are required.

Kurt Siegel did not live to see the revolutionary upheavals. The last refuge of the 1st guild merchant, a talented engineer and a successful businessman became the Smolenskoye Lutheran cemetery in St. Petersburg. But a good memory of him is the plant and a wonderful, eye-pleasing mansion on Marata Street..

And one more thing ... Now you won’t meet Siegel’s bathtubs and washbasins in apartments. The top of comfort at the beginning of the 20th century, today they would seem a little ridiculous and, of course, not so convenient. But there are products of the company that still serve us, not subject to time. These are the hatches that Siegel released. They can be seen in St. Petersburg and its suburbs. As they say, the expiry date is not limited!