In the 1950s, a golden candlestick was found in the ventilation system in one of the rooms of this building – a reminder of the fact that it was initially a jewellery factory. During the Soviet era, the building housed a leather and footwear training school, dormitory and a continuing education institute for engineering and technical personnel.
Gold and silver factory
The redbrick building on Malaya Ordynka is a typical example of eclectic late 19th century architecture. Built as a factory for jewellery production, after 1917 it met a very different fate. This building owes its presence to two people – Nemirov and Kolodkin. Although both died long before its construction, without them there would have been no factory and no remarkable company that has made such a great contribution to the Russian jewellery industry.
Nikolai Vasilyevich Nemirov, originally from Vologda, came to Moscow in his youth already trained as a silversmith. Ivan Ivanovich Kolodkin, a Moscow merchant, had a small jewellery business and retail shop. He hired Nemirov as his clerk. The Kolodkins did not have children, and the young, efficient, and honest Nikolai Nemirov, who worked for many years at the firm, became the merchant’s heir and obtained the double surname. In 1868, a Moscow magistrate approved Nikolai’s petition to henceforth be called Nemirov-Kolodkin. It was at this time that the N.V. Nemirov-Kolodkin Trading House began to grow as a jewellery company that became known not only in Russia but also in Europe. Its products are now in many museums around the country and in private collections.
In the 1850s, Nikolai Nemirov married Daria Artemevna, a merchant's daughter, and received a large dowry as a result. After adding his wife’s savings to his own resources, in 1872, he opened his first small factory. Nemirov-Kolodkin and his wife lived in their own house on Bolshaya Ordynka, and the factory was located nearby. They needed people to manage the factory, and the couple (they also did not have children) decided to invite Nikolai’s nephews from Vologda.
They were Alexander Nikolaevich and Nikolai Nikolaevich Druzhinin, Ivan Alexandrovich Lapin and Alexei Nikolaevich Davydov. They all settled in their uncle’s house and became salesmen.
The high artistic and technical quality of items produced by Nemirov-Kolodkin was noticed by the Moscow Court Office. Beginning in 1876, the company regularly began to fill orders for silverware for Moscow’s imperial palaces. Things were going well, and by the 1880s, the trading house not only owned the factory but also a store on Ilyinka Ulitsa, as well as several shops in Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod.
Nikolai Vasilyevich did not forget about charity. He donated to educational institutions and to an almshouse for impoverished blind women to which he bequeathed his home after his death. The Nikolai Vasilyevich and Daria Artemevna Nemirov-Kolodkin Almshouse stood on Bolshaya Ordynka until 1917.
Nemirov-Kolodkin died in 1886, leaving his company to his nephews’ two families – the Davydovs and Druzhinins. In 1892, they established the N.V. Nemirov-Kolodkin Manufacturing and Trading Association. The heirs managed not only to maintain but also to increase the scale of the enterprise.
The advertising literature of the heirs’ partnership read, 'The increasing number of orders, especially for various types of church vessels, has compelled the Association to open its own factory to produce gold and silver jewellery and church vessels from various materials. This factory is currently located on Malaya Ordynka in the building of the Association.’
In 1891, the successors of Nemirov-Kolodkin bought from the peasant Sergei Uvarov the holding on Malaya Ordynka where Building No. 17 now stands. According to the survey of the area for 1887, the holding contained four one-story wooden structures. Two of them faced the street, and the others stood in the courtyard. The archival inventory states: ‘the structures are in a solid state, and with proper maintenance can stand for the period defined by the Company's charter.’ But they did not stand for long: all the wooden houses were demolished so they could be replaced by a two-story brick building for a factory to produce gold and silver jewellery and church vessels.
Ivan Ivanovich Mochalov, already an accomplished architect at the time, was invited to design the building. While almost all of his constructions in Moscow have been either lost or rebuilt, the factory building on Malaya Ordynka is one of the best of his preserved creations. Construction was completed in 1895.
Mochalov built a two-storey redbrick building with a richly decorated façade. At the end of the century, redbrick buildings were featured strongly in Russia’s architectural tastes. The bold symmetry of the building’s upper part is violated by the passage arch and the entry (currently built in); they are strongly shifted to the right edge.
The façade is covered with ornate, carefully constructed brick elements that repeat the decorative motifs of ancient Russian architecture. This includes the passage arch itself, whose proportions and location compare to the archways of Russian churches dating from the 13th to 17th centuries, and pilasters with complex patterns. It also consists of decorative elements typical for the ancient Russian churches: interchanging square decorative brickwork, triangles, retaining blocks, kerbsides, etc. The picturesqueness of the façade’s composition is achieved by a combination of complex cornices, corbels, and pilasters. The architect added to them several beautifully decorated attics and gables (now lost). The second-floor windows have a semi-circular completion, which, coupled with the building’s brick décor, makes elegant palace. The ground floor with rectangular windows is stricter; its façade is divided by smooth, tall pilasters.
The façades facing the courtyard and alleys are more succinct and strict. Their only decoration are the semi-circular windows on the second floor. The walls of the first two floors are thicker. A pipe – a required functional accessory for a factory – towers above the building, a reminder that casting and other high-temperature operations were once performed here.
From the first years of the factory’s existence on Malaya Ordynka, the manufacturing operations were perfectly equipped with the latest technology and outfitted with steam and electric motors. Work was done by talented artists – draftsmen, painters and jewellers. Silver and gold tableware was made here, embossed and smooth, along with jewellery made of diamonds and other precious stones – necklaces, brooches, rings, bracelets, earrings, lockets, and others.
A special department of the factory was engaged in the manufacture of church vessels ‘on behalf of the Holy Synod, the synod and diocesan monasteries, religious brotherhoods and many individuals’ (from the company’s advertising). The range of these products was enormous: metallic iconostasis, holy doors, chandeliers, dressing for altars, banners, vestments, candlesticks, crosses, and much more. All of this was made to the highest quality. It was not by chance that the N.V. Nemirov-Kolodkin Manufacturing and Trading Association was the supplier of the Court of Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna in the early 20th century.
The events of the autumn of 1917 were calmly met by the factory’s owners; everyone was certain that the disorder would not last long. The factory continued to operate until August 1918, after which it was nationalized. In 1920, it was transferred to Glavzoloto, as were all other jewellery manufacturers in Moscow.
Factory No. 1 of the Electro-Technical Trust, which produced accessories for electricity, was housed in the vacated building and remained there until the war.
In 1948, the name of the street was changed, and it began to carry the name of the playwright A.N. Ostrovsky, whose museum house was located at the beginning of the street (No. 9). Around the same time, the former factory has also underwent changes. The building was occupied by the leather and footwear training school, as well as its dormitory.
The new owners carried out a major rebuilding, or, more precisely, additional building. From 1948 to 1952, two floors were added to the building, giving it four storeys in total. The décor from the street façade was preserved and carried over to the additional floors as much as possible, as were the location and size of the windows and the internal layout. Only the thickness of the walls became much smaller. All work was done by German POWs.
The courtyard façades were given a grand appearance. Their walls were plastered and painted. The central part of the main entrance was completed in the spirit of Stalin's neoclassicism. The centre is accented by a group of flat pilasters with elaborate column caps at the end. Above them is a triangular gable with a round window. The upper floors are loaded with wide balconies three windows wide. The rest of the courtyard façades received the pairs of smaller balconies. In the 1990s, two balconies located above the passage arch were demolished due to their unsafe condition. Now only traces indicating their former location are visible.
The building preserves the layout of the post-war era – narrow corridors, location of classrooms and offices, and three staircases. An elegant, wide staircase begins from the spacious hall at the main entrance. The rest of the stairways are much more modest in their arrangement. On the second floor, one can find fragments of the original brick floor and trace the subsequent layers. Several doors from the middle of the 20th century remain in the building. One of them, padded in upholstery, is in the office of the building’s director.
For many years, the building was a symbiosis of academic and residential space. The training school wing overlooked the street, with the rest of the space reserved for housing. The damp basement of the building was also living space; here lived the housekeeper, the commandant, and workers. This situation continued until the 1960s when a bomb shelter with heavy metal doors was constructed.
The leather and footwear training school was replaced by an institute of continuing education for engineering and technical personnel. Its directors, as well as the administration of the former training school, lived here on the first floor. Students at the institute were trained for two months and lived in the dormitory that was in the far courtyard wing, as well as on the third and fourth floors of the central building. But the third floor was also used for academic purposes.
Living conditions in the building were not simple. On the ground floor, where a buffet is now located, there was a community kitchen with large stoves. Stoves were absent in the living room, as were bathrooms. Later, in the 1960s, they began to equip the apartments with all the necessary features, including bathrooms. But the utilities worked very poorly.
In the 1950s, a golden candlestick was found in the ventilation system in one of the living rooms – the last item produced by the Nemirov-Kolodkin factory. The gold was given to the state. In 1964, the building brought back memories of the past once again when an unexploded bomb from the war was found on the pavement outside the walls. Students and residents were hastily evacuated, and the bomb was defused. This happened under subsequent occupancy of the building by the Institute of Advanced Training for Managers and Specialists of Light Industry.
The principle of combining residential and academic facilities remained as it was previously, but new classrooms appeared. On the second floor, a screening room to show educational films was set up. To provide sound insulation, the walls were covered with leatherette panels that could absorb sound. This room remains preserved to this day.
In 1992, the street returned to its former name – Malaya Ordynka. In 1997, the Institute for Advanced Studies was liquidated together with the dormitory, and a year later, an order was issued by the ministry to transfer the functions of the liquidated educational institutions to other institutions of higher education. It was at this time that the building was transferred to the Higher School of Economics.
The building has been managed by the Higher School of Economics since 2012. The following are located here:
Author: Anastasia A. Solovyova
Art historian, historian of Moscow. Author of Litsa rossiiskoi istorii: kolleksia portretov (Faces of Russian History: A Collection of Portraits); director of a film-walk Ot Kremlya do Novodevichy (From the Kremlin to Novodevichy), 1997; Research editor on Lubiansky Triugolnik (Lubianka Triangle), by A.V. Kolosov. Anastasia Solovyova has studied and written about the bells of Moscow and is a tour guide for ‘Moscow that isn’t there’ and a contributing author to the website ‘Get to know Moscow’.