One of the oldest building's on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg's central thoroughfare, Anichkov Palace stands next to the landmark Anichkov Bridge across the Fontanka River. When the building was commissioned by Empress Elizabeth in 1741, the site of the palace was on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, and Nevsky Prospekt was lined with trees.
The original architect, Mikhail Zemtsov, gave the building its form and dimensions, while Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli completed the original baroque decorations. Elizabeth gave the completed palace to Aleksey Razumovsky, her favourite and unofficial spouse.
After Razumovsky's death, Catherine the Great bought the palace from his brother and in turn gifted it to her favorite and lover, Grigoriy Potemkin. Between 1776 and 1778, Potemkin employed the architect Ivan Starov to refashion the building. Starov leveled the varying storeys of the palaces different wings and replaced the baroque decorations with strict neo-classical facades, creating the impressive but somewhat monotonous aspect that can be seen to this day.
The palace returned to Imperial ownership at the end of the 18th century, and housed for a short period the offices of the Cabinet of his Highness the Emperor, which managed the Imperial estates and industrial concerns. Later it became the St. Petersburg residence of various members of the Imperial family, including Nicholas I, Alexander II and Alexander III before their ascendance to the throne. After the October Revolution, the Anichkov Palace was used briefly as a museum of St. Petersburg, and in the late thirties became Leningrad's Pioneers' Palace - the local headquarters of the Soviet equivalent of the Boy Scouts. Now named the Palace of Youth Creativity, it is home to a variety of organizations offering after-school education in arts and crafts, sport, sciences, and engineering. Part of the building is also used for the Anichkov Lycee, one of St. Petersburg's most prestigious secondary