The Merchant Yard
The Merchant Yard in Great Novgorod (closest to the one in Arkhangelsk typologically) was destroyed, Merchant Yards in Smolensk and Petrozavodsk ceased to exist, and the Moscow Merchant Yard completely changed its appearance. It is exactly the reason why The Merchant Yard in Arkhangelsk is so valuable as the only remaining Old Russian edifice embracing both defence and trading functions. It played a role similar to that of Kremlins in other Old Russian towns and was a town-forming nucleus of the northern-most port of Russia.
Arkhangelsk Merchant Yard is one of very few remaining monuments of stone architecture, which date back to XVII century in Russia .
Russia experienced a rapid economic development in XVII century. Over 50% of all foreign trade passed through the port of Arkhangelsk .
Arkhangelsk , in a way, became the 'face' of the state that traded with the West European countries. Soon one felt the need to make the 'facade' of Russia attractive and comfortable for the foreign trade.
In 1667 the government decided to build a Merchant Yard in Arkhangelsk . The first preparatory and planning works began in summer of the same year. Already the next year, 1668, the construction of the Russian and German (which meant ' Foreign' in those times) Merchant Yards commenced. Those two would form a square in the middle. When the wooden fortress got destroyed in the fire in 1670, The Merchant Yard received some military add-ons. This made the central square a genuine stone fortress.
The mighty construction was finished in 1684 to impress Peter the Great on his visit to the town in 1693.
In XVIII century when most of the international trade moved to St Petersburg , Arkhangelsk fell into decay. There was no use for the Merchant Yard and it began to collapse.
In 1770's it was finally decided to reconstruct The Merchant Yard. The stone fortress and German Yard were taken apart to repair the Russian section. One can still see the remnants of the German Merchant Yard in old photographs from the beginning of XX century but eventually even those disappeared.
The building goes through a number of changes in the XVII century. The river facade got the 'classical' features in accord with the prevailing tendency in architecture of that time. In 1788 a one-storey building for Exchange was erected on a new seating. During the navigation period a flag was hoisted over the building and a lantern was lit. Where there had been the stone fortress before, wine storehouses and larders were built. Unfortunately, because of lack of financing the project of the entire group of buildings was left unfinished.
The northern, eastern and southern wings on the Russian Merchant Yard were destroyed. Only the Western wing that faces the river survived until now. But even the remaining parts - the Western wing with the Northern tower, Exchange and storehouses - right in the centre of the city produce an unforgettable impression.
In 1981 Merchant Yard was transferred into the ownership of Arkhangelsk regional museum. The Russian Ministry of Culture approved the projects for its restoration in 1986, and they have been gradually implemented until presently.