The St. Petersburg Passage was opened on the 9th (22 th) of May 1848. Aristocrat Count Yakov Ivanovich Essen-Stenbock-Fermor worked out the idea of a new shopping gallery. The Golitsinskaya gallery in Moscow became a prototype of the building. On the first floor of the Passage there were warehouses, on the second floor - spaces for trade companies, and on the third floor - residential areas. A concert hall was located in the building on Italianskaya street. The name of the shopping center - "Passage" - is based on the French word "passer", which means to wander. The covered street-gallery was 180 meters long.
The Passage was not only the center of St. Petersburg's trade in the middle of the century, but also a center of a social life and was a popular place for business and social meetings. The Passage became a fashionable place and it was a must to visit it. In 1858 the largest education center in the city was built in the Passage, where public lectures were reading and books were distributing.
A next owner of the Passage was Princess N. A. Baryatinskaya. Seemingly intentionally, on the 21st of January 1898, the year of Passage's 50th anniversary, the building was reconstructed after it had burnt. There was not only a reconstruction of facades and interiors, but also a profound technical modernization.
On the 1st of January 1900 Passage was closed on reconstruction, which was completed for less than one year. The renew Passage was appeared before public as an imposing monumental building with an additional floor and a high attic, standing out from the surrounding buildings. In addition to countless improvements of the interiors there were also installed the highest elevator at the time and a power plant for lighting and heating. The glass roof was reconstructed.
Permanent tenants and respectable merchants began to return in the Passage. A branch of "Lyons Credit" – the first foreign bank in Russia was placed on the first floor.
In 1901 a theater was opened in the Passage, in 1904 this theater received the name – Drama Theater. The theater had a success due to performances of Vera F. Komissarzhevskaya – the star of the Alexandrinsky Theater. She had left the imperial stage to create a fundamentally new theater in harmony with the current time.
Society needed changes. In a situation of lawlessness, employees of shops and stores joined together in unions to fight for their rights. On the 9th of January 1905 after shooting against the proletariat march on Vosstaniya square (Znamenskaya), the first stage of revolution had been started. And it ended with a legalisation of the 12 hour working day, which became a victory, even though it was a temporary victory.
Passage traders faced to a stronger competition than ever before at the beginning of the 20th century. By 1906 the number of commercial enterprises in St. Petersburg had grown to 12,000 and exceeded 16,000 in 1914. The Passage was continuing to play an important role in the cultural life of the capital as it hosted regular exhibitions of artists, movies, and entertainments. The Passage theater was rented by various teams, most notable of them was the Moscow Theater named after S. F. Saburov in 1913.
The beginning of the World War I on the 19th of July 1914 negatively affected the country and led it to economic crisis. Another wave of dissent led to revolution. The political system of the country dramatically changed: firstly in February 1917 with the advent of the Kerensky government, and then in October of the same year, when the Bolsheviks came to power.
In October 1917 the Soviet era began, which dramatically changed Russian history. In May 1920 the Government passed an order to forbid non-State trade. Consequently, the Passage as a private store ceased to exist.
The supermarket reopened on the 3rd of February 1922 as a cooperative enterprise owned by the Petrogradsky common consumer society with a new name, "Universal Passage," and was intended to represent the progress of Soviet cooperation.
In September 1933 the Passage became an illustrative department store in the state trade system.
In late 1980s, the country was included in lease relations. In 1989, the Passage was one of the first department stores which employees rented department store equipment. Having received its financial and economic independence in 3 years, the Passage became a closed joint-stock company (JSC "TPF" Passage "). In May 1993, the Passage became a member of the International Association of trade centers.
The Passage wanted not only to maintain its architectural heritage, but also to restore its initial appearance, which had been distorted by repeated alterations.
In 1992-1994, the trade halls were decorated with chandeliers and ceiling lamps, designed according to historical sketches. The area of the newly-opened supermarket was more than 700 sq m and there were more than 7000 types of food items selling there. On the 18th of August 1994, a new hall of stores selling shoes and other related items was opened with an area of about 600 sq m on the second floor of Passage.
The Passage celebrated its 150th anniversary this year.
During the anniversary year, many halls were repaired and equipped with modern commercial equipment. Reconstruction of the main building was realized, along with floor replacements and elevator installations. The Passage buildings on # 17 Italianskaya street were also renovated.
All that was created and accomplished in the Passage over a century and a half represents the achievements of several generations. Passage workers have always been characterized by the highest human qualities. Many Passage workers were recognized with government awards, and three of them were awarded the title of Honored Worker of Trade of the Russian Federation.
The Passage today is not only a part of St.Petersburg's historical heritage, but also a prosperous contemporary business enterprise.
More than 10,000 customers visit the Passage daily, and during the holiday season the customers flow triples. Currently, Joint-Stock Company "Passage" is the largest center of boutique trade with an established professional team of likeminded people who value traditions and the reputation of the company. Customer service has been steadily growing, collections are updated, and product lines of goods are expanding.
In the future, a multi-functional shopping complex is planned to be built on the area adjacent to "Passage" on Italianskaya Street. 17.