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Russian Bathhouse

Russian Bathhouse


Having settled in Melikhovo, the Chekhov family began gradually improving the estate. The kitchen was moved from the Main House to a separate wing. They demolished the old stable and built a brand new stock-yard and a barn. In 1894, they built a small separate wing where Anton Pavlovich could work alone. And in early 1895, the construction of a Russian bathhouse began.

Anton Pavlovich drew up a plan for the bathhouse in his notebook himself. From February 7th to March 23rd, 1895, they purchased construction materials and hired workers.

Anton Pavlovich gives Maria Pavlovna, the writer’s younger sister, his first instruction to purchase building material, in a letter from St. Petersburg dated February 7th, 1895: "For the bathhouse, buy oakum from Bakhmarin or from Prokin – depending on who is cheaper; it is better to buy nails at the Balchug*  in Moscow from Goujon**. Goujon will dispatch it. As for the iron for the roof, we need to consult Tolokonnikov."

On February 15th, the writer's father, Pavel Egorovich, wrote in his diary: "Carpenters began to make a bathhouse."

Anton Pavlovich was engaged in buying iron, purchasing some "stove trifles" and hiring a roofer and a ‘woodpecker’ (stands for a caulker) on his own, as he informed his sister Maria Pavlovna in a letter on March 2nd: "Iron, a set of 5 sheets per one pood *** costs in Serpukhov 2 r. (rubles) 90 k. (kopecks). In my opinion, there is no different from the price in Moscow. I have taken 10 pood<s> so far in order to show this to you, and if you approve, I will write them – and they will send the rest by cash on delivery. I bought all the stove trifles, ordered a cube**** in 6 vedros***** with a copper faucet for 3 rubles. I bought two bells with a spring, 30 poods of first-grade oakum for 1 r. 20 k. per one pood with delivery. I invited a roofer and a woodpecker (stands for a wood caulker, - translator’s note). The first one, is the best roofer in Serpukhov, who works for the local Zemstvo (a district council in Russia in 1864 – 1918, - translator’s note) charged me with 6 kopecks per sheet with his grease and gutters. They have vouched for the quality of the work they do. The second one, i.e. a woodpecker, charged me with 5 rubles for the bathhouse + 50 k<opecks>. rewards for his way from the city to Melikhovo. This man is also on the recommendation.

...The roofer and the woodpecker have arrived. My father has left to give them the materials, as if he were going to whip them.

On March 23rd, Pavel Egorovich wrote in his diary: "The bathhouse is finished. The carpenters have bathed themselves there."

Unfortunately, the Chekhov bathhouse did not survive.

Sergei Mikhailovich Chekhov, the nephew of the writer took a significant part in all restoration works on the Chekhov estate. In October 1960 he completed a drawing of the bathhouse, based on the memories of a long-time resident of Melikhovo, Andrei Alexandrovich Zhuravlev.

Recollections of the writer's sister, Maria Pavlovna Chekhova, have also been preserved: "Why did the peasants ruin the bathhouse – they could use it. I regret about the bathhouse more than about the house. ... In the first room there was a laundry, the second one was used for changing, and the third was a steam bath with shelves, a stove with hinged iron doors, and water was poured on the stones directly into the oven. The bathroom was filled with steam. It was good to bathe here. A real Russian bathhouse. A.P. (Anton Pavlovich, - translator’s note) smiled with pleasure after having bathed."

The bathhouse was restored in 2009.

Translator’s notes:

  • * Balchug - was a trading street in Moscow.

  • ** Goujon - a well-known merchant of French origin in Russia.

  • ***Pood - a Russian unit of weight before the Revolution, it was equal to 36 lb, or16.38 kg.

  • ****Cube - stands for a metal boiling tank.

  • *****Vedro - in Russian stands for a bucket in English; it is a unit of measurement of liquid in Russia before the Revolution; it was equal approx. to 12,299 liters.