Tsar Peter House
A Small House for a Great Man
When Tsar Peter the Great embarked on his Grand Embassy to Western Europe in 1697, one of his objectives was to study the ins & outs of the shipbuilding trade. To do so, he arrived in Zaandam on 18 August to work as a shipbuilder in one the shipyards there, incognito, under the name of Pyotr Mikhaylov. He left for Amsterdam seven days later, after the locals had recognized the strikingly tall stranger and started to annoy him. During his brief stay the Tsar lodged in the rather humble dwelling of blacksmith Gerrit Kist, known today as Tsar Peter House, which is one of the country’s oldest wooden houses (1632). Thanks to its prominent tenant, the house survived the centuries and is now a museum — or, to be precise, the main object in the museum that was built around it in 1896 & 1897.
In 1818, King Willem I purchased the house and presented it as a maternity gift to his daughter-in-law, Anna Pavlovna, the sister of Tsar Alexander I. She had a protective casing erected over the rear section of the house, where her ancestor had resided, and had the front part of the building demolished. Her son King Willem III presented the ‘précieux souvenir historique’ to his great-nephew Tsar Alexander III in 1886, and it was his son Nicholas II, the last Russian monarch, who ordered the construction of the museum building as we know it today. A visit to Tsar Peter House takes some 30 minutes, unless you’re fortunate enough to have curator Farida Guseynova as your hostess, whose stories about Peter the Great and the house & its many distinguished visitors will easily entertain you for twice as long.zaansmuseum.nl