The History of Nine Doors

You might have heard of the famous Odesa story "Twelve Chairs" but did you hear about "Nine Doors"?

A story of Old Odesa.

Getting acquainted with the biographies of people who shaped the image of old Odesa, I drew attention to the figure of the well-known engineer-architect (Маврикий Германович Рейнгерц, born in 1860) Mavriky Germanovich Reingertz from before the Revolution.

Reingertz worked in our city for more than half a century: he designed many residential and public buildings, supervised their construction, studied the history of urban planning, and was a mentor to a whole generation of architects.

The buildings and structures erected or designed by him are quite well known. There is the main post office of Odesa, the telephone exchange, and residential buildings on the street. Katerynynska № 2 and № 12; № 4, 5, 8, 10 - on the street Knyazheska and others.

Many years ago, the section "Odessica" received a gift from the granddaughter of M. G. Reingerts, some of his manuscripts, including "The History of Nine Doors", with which we would like to briefly acquaint the reader:

"...Odesa grew up on grain exports - this is well known. So one of the largest grain exporters was a very wealthy and reputable merchant Konstantin Papudov. In the 1920s, he purchased a huge piece of land in the center of the city, on Cathedral Square, (Soborna Square) and by 1840 built it up with two-story stone barns for grain storage. This entire building complex was perhaps the most extensive in the city - it overlooked four streets, and the main facade was facing Preobrazhenskaya.

Papudov's affairs at that time were going brilliantly, and the company prospered: in 1836 its turnover reached two million rubles. The marriage to Ariadna Evstratyevna Papudova, a girl from a rich and respected Greek merchant family, also benefited. In addition, the bride was the first beauty in Odesa. The hospitable house of the Papudovs became popular in the city.

Ariadna Evstratyevna PapudovaAriadna Evstratyevna Papudova

But fortune is changeable. The plague epidemic of 1837-1838, which led to the tightening of quarantine rules and a sharp reduction in grain exports, dealt a serious blow to Papudov's company; he stopped repaying loans, and the English bankers Bering and Gambro unsuccessfully demanded payment of debts. The merchant was forced to leave Odesa in order to show up in Paris a year later - without funds, without connections, and without friends.

However, Papudov was lucky again. The young Baron Rothschild, a representative of a well-known dynasty of bankers, once he saw Papudov and his wife in the box of the Grand Opera, became carried away by the beautiful wife. Having made inquiries through his brokers, the baron found out about the constrained financial situation of the Odesa couple and began to patronize them. The patronage of Rothschild ensured the renewal of loans, and Papudov became rich again.

Filled with tender feelings, Rothschild gave the Odesa beauty a small palace, formerly owned by the Duke de Sagan - near the Champs Elysees. Of course, with all the furniture, utensils, horses, and carriages. This mansion was built under Louis XV, during the French Revolution it was ruined, and neglected; its owners emigrated. During the Restoration era, the Sagans sold this building, and in the end, it became an expensive gift presented to Mrs. Papudova. This was in 1839 or 1840. (An interesting aside, while it passed through very many hands, today this palace is the residence of the Ambassador of Poland in Paris.

How did relations between Papudova and Rothschild develop in the future? It is difficult to judge this today. Apparently, the fascination with Paris subsided - everything comes to an end. One way or another, the Papudovs decided to return home. Having paid off their debts, they again found a worthy place on the commercial Mount Olympus that is Odesa. 

Leaving Paris, the couple sold the Palais de Sagan, but before that, they took out antique furniture, porcelain, and also ... nine mahogany doors with carved bronze handles and porcelain medallions with drawings by the famous French painter Jean-Antoine Watteau. 

All these antiques from Marseille were sent by sea to Odesa and placed on the upper floor of the Papudovs' house (дома Папудовых, top image) on Preobrazhenskaya, rebuilt by the famous architect Boffo. Unfortunately, this part of the house burned down in 1921, and up until just recently, and throughout the Soviet era, there was a flower market there. Today, it is a newly minted Tavria grocery store. On the corner is the statue of the Odesan actress Vera Kholodnaya, created by the artist Alexander P. Tokarev.

After returning from Paris, the Papudovs lived it large - their house was visited frequently, and balls were held where 500-700 guests regularly came. The apartments were notable for exquisite luxury: the main marble staircase, beautiful type-setting parquets made by the Odesa master - the Italian Vanini, figured chandeliers, and sconces made of bronze and crystal. And ... those same "trophy" nine doors from the de Sagan's Parisian mansion.

After the death of the Papudovs, the house was inherited by a daughter who married General Martynov in St. Petersburg. The general rightly decided that since Odesa was losing its status as a major grain exporter, it would be more profitable to rebuild the capacious barns of the Papudovsky house into residential premises. In the 1880s, the architect Mazirov turned the whole complex into an apartment building, part of which at one time was rented by the city library.

In 1910, Martynov was building his own mansion on Kamenny Island in St. Petersburg. It was then that he moved the wonderful Sagan doors to his new home. The smallest details of this "operation" are known since they were filmed and sent to the northern capital by Reingerts himself and the architect Zuev (the one who designed French Boulevard).

The journey of doors did not end there. On the eve of the First World War, they were examined by experienced antique dealers, after which the doors were sold for a huge amount of money and put ... in their original place - in the Palais de Sagan mansion in Paris."

“Everything passes,” Reingertz wrote on this occasion, “as the French proverb says. These doors, which saw a brilliant crowd of courtiers of Louis XV and XVI, wigs of gentlemen and chignons of favorites of kings and, perhaps, Marie Antoinette, who saw contemporaries of Napoleon and Tyleran, - we saw the pages of the noisy brilliant era of Odesa during the heyday of the Porto-franco of the 40-50s of the 19th century. We saw the Vorontsovs, Naryshkins, Gagarins, and other rulers of the life of Odesa. But they returned to their original place in Paris."