Tsarskoe Selo Ponds, Pools, and Canals
Of great decorative importance in laying out symmetrical parks at Tsarskoe Selo were the artificial water bodies such as ponds, canals, and pools with motionless surfaces that would reflect the architecture of the structures on their banks. There were no large expanses of water in Tsarskoe Selo. Since the locality was relatively high up, it had no rivers and lakes except for the little river Vangasi. Therefore, the lack of running water made itself felt right from the beginning of the construction work.
In the beginning, when the royal family was in residence at Tsarskoe Selo, water was brought from St. Petersburg in vats. IN 1749, a gravity flow aqueduct was built in wooden pipes from the Vittolovsky Springs, approximately four kilometers from Pushkin; in 1773, when the aqueduct could no longer satisfy all the needs in water, the construction of the 16-km-long Taitsky aqueduct was started which it took 14 years to build. In 1787, this hydro-engineering installation, which was unique in its design for that time, began to supply running water to the man-made water bodies in the Tsarskoe Selo parks.
By this time the Great and Cascade (or Lower) ponds have been deepened considerably and their banks were lined with a hexagonal frame.
One of the prettiest places is a small lake by the Hermitage, where the Grand Duchess Alexandra, the lovely daughter of the Emperor Nicholas, used to feed swans.
St Petersburg Guide, Jean Bastin, 1874
At the present time, the water surfaces in the Pushkin parks occupy an area of 342,000 square meters, and the volume of water in the running water bodies is 325000 cubic meters. The area of the park’s main pool, the Great Pond, is about 16 hectares. The banks of the pond, which was constructed right at the beginning of the 18th century on the site of a stream, were gradually improved and their shape changed. New pavilions richly ornamented with sculptures and gilding and other structures were erected around it and carefully selected trees were planted.
The dissected banks of the Great Pond, forming peninsulas and little bays with silver willows leaning over the water, the hues of the foliage of maples, aspens, limes and oaks continuously changing in the sun’s rays, the wide sparkling surface of the water and the façades of the buildings contrasting with the green background allow us to consider the Great Pond and its banks one of the most picturesque spots in the park.
With the help of a dam erected by its east bank, the Great Pond supplies the Cascade or Lower Ponds. With its weirs, tall decorative trees, and fantastic heaps of rock fragments and stones, they are very beautiful even today. A tall hill made from the soil dug out when constructing the ponds appeared new one of the Cascade Ponds on the 1770s. It was called Trifon Hill after the gardener Trifon Ilyin.