This vast villa, which was the home of the Russian classical poet Gavrila Romanovich Derzhavin (1743-1816), consists of three buildings on the banks of the Fontanka River. Visitors to the museum will have the chance to see restored interiors from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, as well as a numerous exhibitions devoted to cultural life in St. Petersburg during the period and to the infancy of Russian literature.
The greatest Russian poet of the 18th century Derzhavin bought this plot of land next to the Fontanka River for his suburban villa in 1791. At the time there was already a small mansion on the site, built for the senator and writer Ivan Zakharov. The architect Nikolay Lvov, a friend of Derzhavin's, extended the building considerably, adding two symmetrical wings the main facades of which opened directly onto the Fontanka Embankment. The courtyard was enclosed with a gallery of free-standing columns, and a similar open colonnade joined the two wings on the embankment. The space behind the house was laid out as a landscape garden, with artificial streams and ponds, bridges and follies.
From the 1790s right up until Derzhavin's death, the poet's house was one of the cultural centers of St. Petersburg, a focus for the creative life of the capital. It was a gathering point for the artistic, literary, and political elite of Russia.
In 1846, the villa was acquired by the Roman Catholic Ecclesiastical College, and architect Aleksey Gornostaev adapted the buildings for its purposes. In 2003, as part of the 300th anniversary celebrations in St. Petersburg, the house was opened as the Museum of Gavrila Romanovich Derzhavin and Russian literature of his era. The museum displays manuscripts, illustrations, and rare books from the 18th century, journals, furniture, ornaments, paintings, and prints from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and also portraits of the poet and his contemporaries. Maximum effort has been made to recreate the exact interiors of Derzhavin's day, including the poet's study, the Yellow Drawing Room, the Love Seat, and Derzhavin's house theatre. The museum regularly hosts concerts and literary evenings, as well as an annual celebration of Russian 18th century poetry (3 July).