The Mountain Hall received its name during the reign of Nicholas I when a great slide was installed in this hall which took up about half the room. In Russia slides are called 'Mountains' - hence the hall's name. Prior to the installation of the slide, which effectively obscured most of the room, the Mountain Hall room was one of the loveliest rooms in the palace. Its walls were encrusted with artificial marble of exquisite color and delicate veining, which gave the room a cold, glassy luster.
The furniture was a contrast of dark woods, bright gilt and rich brocades. It dated from many eras, beginning with the reign of Catherine the Great and ending with the reign of Nicholas II. The Mountain Hall was full of treasures; pier tables were covered with delicate porcelain and rare, neo-classical objets d'art produced at Great Catherine's orders.
Above: enlarged view of the miniature mercedes made for Tsarevich Aleksey.
For children the slide would have been, of course, the most interesting object in the hall. It was ordered for the children of Nicholas I. His family spent long periods of time here. He had a large family and a large part of the palace was given over to family activities. This continued to be true in the reign of his son, Alexander II, who shared his father's love of the palace and who also had a large family. The slide was used right up until the revolution by generations of Romanov children and was used by little Aleksey and his friends until the family's exile to Siberia in August 1917.
Above: A wall of the Mountain Hall showing the scagliola which was renewed by Strahov in 1899.
Alongside the slide there was an organ which played circus-type tunes while the Imperial children frolicked on the slide. Parrot cages scattered around the hall, including a big one on the top of the slide where for birds who were trained to sing and screech on cue when the organ was played. This racket added to the fun for children using the slide. The surface of the slide was highly polished wood. Pieces of fabric and carpet were used to slide down the slick surface. It is surprizing that the slide was placed in the midst of fragile works of art, porcelain and delicate glass candelabra.
Above: Doorway in the Marble Hall.
It must have been quite a chore for the servants to safeguard the treasures while the Romanov children were darting about the room at play. In the picture above one can also see Aleksey's miniature Mercedes, which was a gift from his parents on his birthday. This was one of his favorite toys and it was brought here after the revolution. Visitors to the palace commended frequently on this car and its sad association with the murdered Tsarevich. Exhibitions of court costumes were also held here during the years the palace was open as a museum. Suzanne Massie in her book, Pavlovsk, Life of a Russian Palace, describes the last of these exhibitions just before the Second World War.