The Palace of Alexander Menshikov belonged to a close associate of Peter the Great, and an eminent statesman and military figure, Alexander Menshikov (1673-1729).
Peter’s favorite, Menshikov was given the whole of Vasilievsky Island in 1707 (the island itself was also informally known as Menshikov Island at that time, attesting to the power and influence of its owner; the official name, Vasilievsky, was later changed to Preobrazhensky during the reign of Peter III, to be changed back to Vasilievsky yet later on).
Later on, in 1714, the tsar took back his present, but in the time that he owned the land, Menshikov managed to build his Italian-style palace (architects Giovanni Fontana and Gottfried Schadel), the most luxurious building in St. Petersburg at that time, outdoing even royal residences in luxury. For a number of years, all major royal festivities and weddings took place at Menshikov Palace. The construction continued until 1727 (Rastrelli, Trezzini, Le Blonde, and Matternovy all participated in design at later stages), when Menshikov fell out of favor with the new tsar and was exiled to Siberia, and the palace was confiscated.
In the second half of the 18th century the palace housed the First Cadet School.
The Palace was St. Petersburg’s first large building of stone. It successfully combines traditional Russian and West European methods and forms of architecture and is usually classified as an example of Petrine Baroque. Dutch and Russian tiles, wooden paneling, carved and gilded decorations, sculptured moulding and monumental decorative painting have been used in its rich and original ornamentation.
Since 1981, Menshikov Palace has been opened to visitors as a branch of the Russian Museum.
Although Peter lived himself in a modest house, he built a large one for Menshikov on the Vasilievski Ostrov, where now stands the building occupied by the first Cadet Corps. Here the receptions took place, and audience was given to ambassadors; here foreigners were magnificently entertained, victories were feted, and many noisy festivities held. Numerous stories of the great drinking bouts have been told by those who visited the palace of Menshikov, which was resplendent with silver, gold, and rich furniture. He who had first attracted the notice of his master in such a humble capacity, thus came to be one of the foremost men in Russia.
Willam Richard Morfill, A History of Russia, 1904