The original Belosselsky-Belozersky palace was built on the corner of the Nevsky Prospect and the Fontanka Canal after designs by the French architect Thomas de Thomon. It was a far smaller building in the french taste with a large private garden and a launch onto the canal, stuccoed and painted in imitation of Parisian limestone.
The original Palace (1747) was built by Prince Mikhail Andreevitch Belosselsky (1702-1755) during the reign of Empress Elizabeth. His son, Prince Alexander Mikhailovitch (1752-1809) expanded the building, buying the adjoining lot on the Fontanka Canal.
A.M. Belosselsky served as Ambassador to Turin, and wrote the lyrics to the first Russian Opera. He was a devoted friend and supporter of the Emperor Paul I, and because of this, in 1800, the ancient title of Prince of Belozersk was revived for him and added to his own, creating the double-barrelled name of Belosselsky-Belozersky.
The palace passed through the hands of successive generations until the mid-nineteenth century, when it became the property of Princess Elena Pavlovna Belosselskaya-Belozerskaya, the widow of Prince Espere B-B, the Great-Grandson of Alexander Mikhailovitch. Inheriting a not insubstantial fortune of her own through her family the Bibikovs, Elena Pavlovna decided to tear down the original building, and erect a new palace, which was to be built by court architect Stackenscheider.
Because Stackenscheider was official architect to the court, Princess Belosselskaya was forced to petition Emperor Nicholas I for permission to comission his services. This permission was granted, and the B-B palace is the only private commission of Stackenscheider's in the city.
The palace was built in the Russian Baroque revival style, and echoed the architecture of Rastrelli's Stroganov Palace further down the Nevsky Prospect. It was originally painted a clear deep green with white accents, and faux bronze decoration, to harmonize with the Stroganov Palace.
Princess Belosselskya later married Prince Kochubey, and the parties given at the Belosselsky Palace were considered the greatest entertainments ever seen in a private home in the capital.
After her son, Prince Konstantin Esperovitch Belosselsky-Belozersky achieved his majority, the palace became his property. For many years, he lived there with his wife, born Nadezhda Dimitrievna Skobeleva. They had several children, including the beautiful Olga Esperovna, who would later become Princess Orlova and was painted by Serov.
In the late 1870's, the family found themselves living largely at their property on Kresstovsky Island, and the enormous unoccupied palace was a huge drain on their resources.
With the announcement of the engagement of the Grand Duke Serge to Princess Elisabeth of Hesse, Prince Kontstantin Esperovitch approached the Imperial Ministry to offer the palace for sale. The Palace was sold in 1884 to the Grand Duke Sergei.
It was then that the palace was painted the oxide Red which is so associated with the palace. Sergei mounted an extravagant remodeling of the interior, adding a vast library (also used for indoor tennis!), and a slavic revival chapel. After the assassination of the Grand Duke in 1905, the palace became the property of Grand Duchess Elizabeth, who gave it to her ward, Grand Duke Dimitrii Pavlovitch in 1908. He was the last owner of the palace, and ordered it turned into the Anglo-Russian Hospital during the FIrst World War. His heirs are the Illynsky family of Palm Beach, Florida.
The best source of information on the palace is M.P. Tsel'yadt's "Belosselsky-Belozersky Palace" published in Russian by Black and White Press, Saint Petersburg, in 1996.