(THE DUTCH HOUSE OF PETER THE GREAT)
The ensemble of the eastern section of the Lower Park occupies a large territory and is richly decorated with sculptures and fountains. Its main architectural landmark and the focal point of its layout, however, is the Palace of Monplaisir with three avenues radiating from it. The main one, the Monplaisir Avenue, runs towards the Chessboard Hill Cascade and two others lead to the Adam and Pyramid Fountains. Unlike the Great Palace, the Palace of Monplaisir is located at the edge of the Gulf of Finland.
A magnificent picture unfolds before visitors arriving to Peterhof by sea: a high terrace reinforced with huge granite boulders and encircled by an elegant white balustrade echoing the outline of a single-storey brick building with a tall roof. This is Peter the Great's palace called Monplaisir. Attached to its central block are two recessed galleries with structures known as lusthaus pavilions. The walls of the galleries are pierced with narrow glassed doors alternating with deep semicircular niches emphasizing the massive bulk of the walls which protect the area from the northern wind.
The palace has an absolutely different look from the southern side: the galleries are aligned with the central volume of the structure and form a kind of graceful arcade with streams of light pouring in through their glazed apertures. In front of the palace stretches a cosy garden with flower-beds and fountains. On the eastern side it is limited by the Guest Gallery, the Bath House and the Assembly Hall with auxiliary premises. On the western side are a similar gallery and a spacious palace known as the Catherine Block.
The complex took its shape mainly towards the mid-eighteenth century. It is called Monplaisir ("my pleasure" in French) and derives its name from Peter the Great's small amusement palace, although previously the building had been called the Dutch House for the resemblance of its layout and its facade and interior decoration to small "burgher" dwellings in Holland.
Monplaisir is as old as Peterhof itself. The history of the whole palace and park ensemble began with the construction of Monplaisir. The palace was Peter the Great's favourite creation, and it was he who gave it this name. The Emperor himself chose the site for the construction and sketched the layout of the building. It is hardly possible to find any other place where his personal habits and tastes could be so strongly felt.
As is the case with a number of other monuments dating from the first quarter of the eighteenth century, no reliable data on the designer of the palace of Monplaisir have reached us. Many researchers are inclined to believe that it was designed by Andreas Schluter, an architect who worked in Russia for some time before his death in 1714. In any case, his assistant and pupil Johann Braunstein was responsible for the building work and interior decoration there.
The construction of the palace began in May 1714 and by August 1723, when the first gala festivities were held in Peterhof, Monplaisir had been completed.
During Peter the Great's last years Monplaisir was used for small receptions. In the mid-eighteenth century, although tea-drinking parties and intimate dinners were held in the palace, it was above all regarded as "one of the most revered relics of national history".