The 2018 FIFA World Cup city press center in Moscow is located at one of the most famous buildings in Moscow: the House of Unions, or its Pillar Hall, to be more precise. Prince Vasily Dolgorukov-Krymsky constructed this building for himself and his family in the first half of the 18th century on the site where Okhotny Ryad's fish market once stood.
In 1784, the Moscow aristocracy bought the house for the Gentry Assembly, which had no permanent place to meet. The building needed to be rebuilt, and the famous architect Matvei Kazakov was commissioned. A ceremonial façade with six columns in the center, Tuscan pillar porticos and vertical niches around the windows were created on the Bolshaya Dmitrovka Street side. The façade that overlooked Okhotny Ryad Street had only a ceremonial entrance with an archway with double rows of columns on each side. The Grand Hall, later renamed Pillar Hall, was built in place of the patio. It could seat over 2,000. It was taller than the rest of the building and looked like a separate wing.
Most Russian tsars visited the estate when they went to Moscow. Emperor Alexander I went there regularly, and Emperor Nicholas I was received there in the fall of 1826. "The Russian Noble Assembly had the pleasure to treat His Majesty the Emperor in a most brilliant and exquisite way that this Assembly presented in all the memorable eras of our ancient capital."
Long before the Grand Concert Hall of the Moscow Conservatory opened (1901), musicians talked about the famous acoustics in Pillar Hall, which can be called the first Moscow philharmonic hall. On March 8, 1830, the well-known 19th century piano player John Field performed there with Bolshoi Theater soloists Pyotr Bulakhov and singer Repina. The concert was attended by Emperor Nicholas I as well as Mikhail Lermontov and Alexander Pushkin, who probably saw Natalya Goncharova there for the first time.
During the Patriotic War of 1812, a massive fire broke out in Moscow and destroyed 6,500 buildings and churches, including the Gentry Assembly building. The fire destroyed all the books, accounts, plans and other documents. Everything hidden in the storage rooms was stolen. Small traders were let inside the building because there was no other way and they were the Assembly's only source of income after the war.
After the French troops left the city, architect Alexei Bakarev restored the building in 1814, but the details on the Pillar Hall and its picturesque dome were lost forever.
In the early 20th century, Moscow saw a lot of development. The city started to grow upwards and its appearance began to change. The district near Okhotny Ryad Street also changed. The noble class did not want to be left behind and decided to renovate the building. The project was given to Alexander Meisner, who added another floor and built the estate to the same height as the Grand Hall. The building changed significantly, but did not lose its classic design, but it became simpler and more elegant than before.
On November 1, 1917, the Moscow Military and Revolutionary Committee decided to confiscate the building for the Central Council of Moscow Professional Unions. Since then, the building has been called the House of Unions. After the capital was moved from Petrograd to Moscow, the building became the center of the country's social, political and cultural life.
On January, 23-27, 1924, a farewell ceremony for Vladimir Lenin was held at Pillar Hall. It was often used to bid farewell to Soviet officials. Court hearings, used as examples, were held there, as were Soviet and union congresses, Communist Party conferences, union of writers and composers' meetings, concerts and sports competitions.
The House of Unions was one the first to use radio in its work. In 1924, a radio station was established, and two 40-meter-high antennas were installed on the roof near Georgiyevsky Pereulok.
In 1925, the first Moscow international chess tournament was held in the Blue Hall at the House of Unions, which promoted the chess movement in Russia. On September 9, 1984, the Pillar Hall hosted the opening ceremony for the match between Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov who competed for the title of world champion.
Today, the House of Unions is a gem in central Moscow's historical and architectural "necklace" and also a Russian national treasure. Concerts and performances are still held there.