For more than a hundred years the Sanduny Bath House (or the Sanduny) remains a symbol of the Russian bath tradition. Since the very opening day it has been one of the centres of social life in Moscow: something like an English club for the noblemen and a health centre for ordinary people.
Sila Sandunov, the founder of the bath house, was the first to introduce separate male and female bath sections – earlier in bath houses there had been only relative fences which separated naked men from women. For the noblemen there were created separate rooms with comfortable sofas, clean sheets, mirror dressing rooms, and silver basins.
The upper class ladies could come to the bath house with their pet-dogs: they were allowed to bathe together with the ladies. The Russian tradition of rich merchant brides to visit a bath house prior to the wedding originates from the Sanduny. It is also known that Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Chekhov were amongst the visitors of the “noblemen” sections of the bath house.
The Sanduny baths can be referred to as the oldest bath houses of Moscow. Their creation was a result of a romantic story that took place in Petersburg. In the end of the 18th century there lived Sila Sandunov, a famous actor of those times at court of Catherine the Great. He was married to Elizabeth Uranova, an opera-singer who was under the Empress’s egis. On the wedding day of Elizabeth Uranova and Sila Sandunov the Empress presented the bride with diamonds. However, the Empress was not the only person fascinated by the talent of Elizabeth. The vice-chancellor young count Bezborodko was striving for attention of Elizabeth, and after realizing that all his efforts were in vain he started to bait the Sandunovs family which made them move to Moscow.
In Moscow Sila Sandunov sold the diamonds presented to his wife by the Empress and started buying up the cheap pieces of land in Neglinnaya Street. In 1808 in the street appeared wonderful baths that made his surname famous. Sandunov had spent much time gathering information on bathing business, and it was clear since the very beginning that no bath houses could compete with his one. The Sandunov`s Bath House had sections for noblemen and ordinary people, and later he opened one more, very expensive, section – for families.
Nevertheless, Sila Sandunov was the bath house owner for only few years. After him the baths owners changed several times. In 1896 the architect B. Freidenberg built a luxury complex of the new Sanduny.
During its long history the Sanduny Bath House has been renovated many times. Since 1990 it has annually had a face-lift. Nowadays the Sanduny is the most prestigious and expensive bath in Moscow. They still have the same stunningly luxury male and female sections; however, there is an opinion that unlike the baths of the 19th century the Sanduny has become less democratic. As the bath house’s administration says with pride, famous actors are frequent quests here: the actor Jean-Claude Van Damme has also once visited their baths. In 1991 the Committee of the Moscow Historical Monuments` Protection registered the Sanduny Bath House as an architectural monument of the city.