No. 28: House of Singer
Petersburg's First Modern Office Building: The House of Singer
The House of Singer on 28 Nevsky Prospect, located on prime real estate on the corner of Ekaterininskii Canal and across from Kazan Cathedral, was the headquarters of the Singer Sewing Machine Company in Russia. Built between 1902 and 1904 after the demolition of the house that stood on the site, it became the country's first modern office building with steel girders, fireproof floors and ceilings. It opened its doors for business December 12, 1904.
Its six storeys topped by a 2.8 meter glass cupola with a glass globe made it the tallest building on Nevsky. The company initially intended an even taller one, but according to the city building code, no structure could exceed the height of the Winter Palace, residence of the tsar. The House of Singer was compared at the time to New York's Singer Building, the international headquarters of the sewing machine company completed in 1908, which became the city's tallest skyscraper.
The House of Singer, designed by Pavel Siuzor, was one of the striking examples of Petersburg's art nouveau archtecture, called moderne in Russian. Its exterior was decorated by six bronze female figures of martial appearance straddling ship bows, although some of them are holding spindles, emblems of the building's affiliation. The glass globe on top of the cupola, held up by two women, represented the multinational scope of the company, whose largest foreign market at the beginning of the 20th century was in Russia. Similar sculptures flank the main gate of the Admiralty Building. On the equatorial strip circling the globe was the name of the company – Singer – in large Cyrillic letters, towering over Nevsky Prospect.
Besides Singer offices and showrooms, the building housed other American businesses in Petersburg, including the American Consulate, as well as the offices of Russian and foreign commercial enterprises in Petersburg.