The Mariinsky Palace, situated just across the square from St Isaac's Cathedral, is better known today as the seat of the local Legislative Assembly (i.e. the City Council), although it was originally built as the Imperial residence of the Grand Duchess Maria, daughter of Emperor Nicholas I. Built between 1839 and 1844, the palace was filled with magnificent interiors and furniture and even boasted an enormous greenhouse, where it was said that pineapples grew rather well.
Architect Andrey Stackensneider, who was also responsible for the Nikolaevskiy Palace and the Beloselskiy-Belozerskiy Palace, created a monumental neoclassical building with intricate decor inspired by medieval French and Renaissance architecture. The original palace interiors were equally eclectic, with each hall decorated in a different style.
In 1884, the Mariinskiy Palace was bought back from Maria Nikolaevna's heirs by the Imperial Estates and assigned by Alexander III to house the State Council of Imperial Russia. The centenary session of the State Council in the Mariinskiy Palace on 5 May 1901 was the subject of a painting by Ilya Repin on display in the Russian Museum. The palace has been used as a government building ever since - as home to the Council of the Russian Republic under the Provisional Government of 1917, to the Leningrad Soviet after the Second World War, and since 1994 to St. Petersburg's Legislative Assembly.