This place is a part of the historical center of Saint-Petersburg. The island was envisaged by Peter the Great (the Russian emperor, ruled from 1721 to 1682) as a center of his new capital. The name of the Island probably deprives from a common Russian name Vasily (Basil). The most popular theory suggests that the name belonged to a Russian commander Vasily Korchmin. His troops were established on this Island at that time.
According to the plan the Island should look like Amsterdam. Domenico Trezzini, a famous Italian architect has made a plan of the Island with rectangular grid of canals which later turned into straight streets (with lines of houses on their sides), as the canals were filled back in because of water stagnation in them. Lines are crossed by three parallel avenues, roughly, from east to west.
To make this project come to life Peter I made the rich citizens build their lavish mansions on Vasilevsky Island. However the plan failed as people were against his decision. Nevertheless some rich manors were built on the embankment of the Neva River. Among them was the first stone mansion of Menshikov, rich and respectable Russian statesman. Generally speaking the development of the region started only in XIX century. At that time the Stock Exchange and the Rostral columns were finished. Many educational institutions moved to Vasilevsky Island, and also industrial structures. The first permanent bridge called Blagoveshensky was opened in 1850, connecting Vasilevsky Island and the city. By the beginning of the XX century the island became a center on the tram (trolley) traffic, the first tram depot was opened there.