New life for ancient mansion
Reconstructed Minsk mansion, once belonging to the Vankovich family, ready to welcome culture-seeking visitors by autumn
By Daria Andreeva
Rich life story
In the 19th century, the Vankovich estate gathered local high society at its boisterous parties. Guests included such prominent figures as composer Stanislaw Moniuszko, playwright Wincenty Dunin-Marcinkiewicz and artist Jan Damel. Noble host Valenty Vankovich is now considered a father of Belarusian pictorial art.
Guests were welcomed to Valenty’s richly furnished apartments, in his beautifully located mansion. His estate included waterfalls created by the Slepyanka River and walks through pinewoods. The house’s luxurious interiors featured a rich decorated main hall, in addition to other ornate rooms, a salon, a dining room with tile-covered stoves and fireplaces, and a library with an archive system. Each room was furnished splendidly — featuring bronze chandeliers, candlesticks and pictures.
Sadly, the family moved away in the 1920s and the newly arrived Soviet authorities found their own use for the deserted mansion. At various times, it housed a school of officers, a potato sorting point and a hostel. In the mid-1980s, the building received the status of an architectural monument but, by that time, nothing of its unique dйcor survived.
Back to the future
The mansion fell steadily into ruin until 2009, when restoration began, supervised by UNIVEST-M Group. Its representative, Natalia Tolstaya, tells us, “To understand the degree of complexity in restoring the estate, I can say that it’s easier and cheaper to knock it down than to build anew. However, restoration works are now at their final stage.”
The mansion has historical-cultural value, so is to be used to host exhibitions, musical parties and art auctions. Professional lighting and sound equipment has been purchased, as well as an open-air stage — suitable for catwalks and concerts. The attic floor is equipped to host seminars and conferences.
Architect Alexander Konovalenko is the general designer and scientific head of restoration work, responsible for reviving the ancient building so often repaired poorly in the past.
The estate has a large roof-terrace, which can seat up to 600 people comfortably, thanks to a dehumidifying system. The mansion’s grounds offer shade and sunshine as suits your mood and work will continue, bringing the wider estate into repair. It’s impossible to completely restore the Slepyanka water system but the gatehouse and boundary have already received attention.