Moscow citizens used to have a tradition to take a bath once a week, on Saturday, and on special occasions. Back then however, baths were primitive and poorly equipped. Only at the turn of the 18th century, Moscow saw first baths which could be compared with best Turkish and Italian baths in the quality of service, exterior design and interior.
Today, on February 23rd, when Russia celebrates its Defender of the Fatherland Day, we want to tell you about one of the most manlike places in Moscow – men’s department of Sandunovskie Baths (or Sanduny).
The public baths were first opened in 1808. The name was derived from a Georgian nobleman Sila N. Sandunov, who was an actor at the court of Catherine II in the 1790s. He bought a land plot on the Neglinnaya River in 1800 to construct baths there.
In 1869, owned by merchant and landlord Ivan G. Firsanov, the baths were willed to Ivan Firsanov’s only daughter, Vera Ivanovna, after his death in 1881. After Vera divorced her first husband, she married officer Alexey N. Ganetskiy, who was a son of General Nikolai S. Ganetskiy, a participant of the Crimean War. Alexey proposed the idea of building new baths.
In 1894, Ganetskiy hired a well-known architect named Boris V. Freidenberg, but he dropped the project and left Moscow. The new baths were finished by S. Kalugin and opened on February 14th, 1896.
The baths received water through a specially built aqueduct from the Babyegorodskaya Dam on the Moskva River and from a 700-feet deep artesian well. Electrical illumination was provided by a private power plant.
Along with the baths, Sanduny included a hotel, restaurants, and even a pet shop. Sanduny was serviced by approximately 400 attendants.
Not long after the completion of the baths, Ganetskiy lost ownership of Sanduny playing cards. Later, Vera paid his debts and divorced again.
Sanduny included baths for different sectors of society: the higher class and common people. There were departments for men, women and families.
The main building of Sanduny featured stores, apartments and baths.
Entrance to the men’s department.
“Sanduny. Superior quality men’s baths”.
The building in the center was also used as baths. It was a women’s department. Traditionally, young girls would come to Sanduny to have a bath before their wedding to wash their body with water from a silver washtub. Today, this building is a city hospital.
In this brick building, they built the first power plant in Moscow. This very power plant was used to supply the coronation ceremony of Nicholas II in 1896 with electricity.
Let’s go inside.
This odd machine will help you put on your shoe covers quickly.
Chekhov, Rakhmaninov, Shalyapin are among those who have visited the baths. Fedor Shalyapin was confident that visiting Sanduny had a positive effect on his vocal chords.
Sanduny boasts a unique and unsurpassed interior design.
About 70% of the interior of Sanduny is what has remained since the 19th century.
Let’s go to the Gothic hall, the room where people relax after baths.
This is a new carpet, new tile and old tile.
You are not allowed to take photographs here unless it is a cleanup day.
Naples and Vesuvius.
Old hooks and checks.
The Sanduny staff members work hard to be able to speak colloquial English.
In the middle of one of the walls of this room, there is an empty space which was formerly occupied with a fireplace.
There are also private rooms in Sanduny.
The Mauritanian hall is magnificent!
Some Arab ornate lettering.
The hall is divided into cabins today while it used to be a single whole before the revolution.
They would provide each client with a locker and a bracelet. Often, thieves would take advantage of the fact that it was crowded in Sanduny to steal someone’s clothes and other personal belongings.
That column between the two arches was used to tie thieves to. They would keep them like that all day long for people to wreak their anger by punching the thief. Sometimes, people tied to the column would die after severe beating.