By the second half of the XVIII century the Tsar’s Courtyard in Izmailovo had become derelict. The situation changed in 1837 when Emperor Nicholas I made a decision to build on the island a military alms-house as well as to restore two ancient churches, a bell tower, the Bridge tower and the Tsar’s Courtyard.
The alms-house was intended for the ex-servicemen of the Patriotic War of 1812, the Caucasian War as well as soldiers and officers who served in Semyonovsky, Preobrazhensky, Izmailovsky and other regiments. Nicholas I suggested that the northern and southern porches of the Intercession Cathedral should be disassembled and the almshouse buildings should be erected right against it. Architect Konstantin Thon brought the idea to life so that all the three buildings were connected through the ground floor to the cathedral and there was no need to go outside.
The first and second floors of the main buildings housed old soldiers, the southern building included a soldier canteen, the eastern one – separate rooms for officers as well as a canteen and a library. The alms-house had a constantly operating hospital with a doctor, paramedics and nurses, there also was a laboratory and a drug store.
Retired military men did not have to pay for their meals, treatment, dwelling and service dress. A special personnel with a General in charge of the alms-house provided perfect order, nutritious diet and wonderful care about the elderly residents.
Soldiers and officers as well as their wives and children received pension, were granted a small territory to plant vegetables and breed cattle and had an opportunity to earn money. According to the Regulations of the alms-house, they could, to the best of their abilities, clean the rooms, mend clothes, serve up the tables, sweep paths and pull weeds in the garden, take care of the flowerbeds, dry and stock stray for horses to feed, as well as draw duty.
Children of the retired military men and servicemen living at the alms-house could attend a primary school for free, the program was approved by the Ministry of National Education and included writing, reading, grammar, arithmetic, history as well as course on religion.
By the order of Nicholas I vegetable gardens were laid out on the shore of the Grape Pond and on the territory of the former Tsar’s Courtyard, where greenhouses were built later on. In 1883, Empress Maria Feodorovna granted two additional squares of ground for garden, haymaking and pasture needs.
In 1918, the alms-house was left without financing. New social institutions were built for dwellers of the alms-house but not everyone got an opportunity to get social services provided by the Soviet government.
Nowadays one can see surviving buildings of the alms-house: a separate officer building, a family house, buildings where apartments and barracks of servicemen were located as well as a chancellery office, workshops, waterworks, a bath-house, laundry rooms, two ice-houses, a cast-iron entrance arch and a fountain, a carriage barn and a stable.