Restoring the Grandeur
The restoration process to create Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace St. Petersburg represents one of the most ambitious and culturally important projects in the history of Four Seasons.
The reopening of this St. Petersburg landmark follows the successful restoration of historic properties in Florence, Budapest, Istanbul and Milan, and reflects the company’s focus on rescuing unique heritage buildings as Four Seasons expands its range of properties in Europe.
The Lion Palace was originally completed in 1820 by architect Auguste de Montferrand, who had been commissioned by a Russian princess to create an elite apartment house.
Four Seasons and its development partners worked closely with Russian heritage and planning authorities to achieve the highest standards of historical authenticity and cultural sensitivity. Reardon Smith Architects and interior designer Cheryl Rowley were leaders in the process.
Before restoration work could start, the development team produced a more than 1,000-page Historical Note document, covering all aspects of the proposed works, for submission to the St. Petersburg heritage authorities. As an example of the essential attention to detail, the painted surfaces of the yellow façade were studied by experts who discovered that the building had more than 40 remaining layers of paint. Consequently the process of choosing the most authentic colour was far from straightforward.
The Hotel’s main entrance is guarded by two magnificent white marble lions that were immortalized in Alexander Pushkin’s 1833 poem “The Bronze Horseman.” The restoration team took great care to preserve this venerable pair, who have survived nearly two centuries of St. Petersburg’s eventful history. During the Siege of Leningrad (as the city was then known) in the Second World War, the lions remained bravely at their posts, despite the remorseless shelling that the city suffered, thanks to some strategically placed wooden boards.
Also restored are the sculpted female figures that sit atop the palace’s terraces. Often wrongly assumed to be angels, they are in fact muses (as angels were reserved for churches in Russia) and bear the coat of arms of the Russian Empire.
The magnificent main staircase leading to the first floor is one of the original jewels of the palace, and the steps of the staircase are the original granite, recalling the footsteps of the first inhabitants. The stairway’s ceilings, granite columns and gold and bronze decoration are the authentic decorative elements – along with the original vestibule and entry hall.
This grand entrance delivers Four Seasons guests to a historic opportunity: experiencing first-hand the noble lifestyle of imperial Russia.