Nicknamed the “Moscow Versailles”, Lefortovo Estate gave its name to the entire district, the site of which had been occupied by German Quarter (Nemetskaya Sloboda). It was inhabited mostly by foreigners – Germans, Swedes, Dutch, English, Danes - various craftsmen: watchmakers, apothecaries, bakers, merchants and other foreigners invited to Russia to serve in the city of Moscow. Therefore, this area was very much like Western European cities with straight streets, houses with tiled roofed, lawns with flowers. There, in the German Quarter resided the favorite of Peter I, Franz Lefort. The Tsar liked staying with Lefort in a small house on the banks of the Yauza. By the order of Lefort, the house was rearranged in French style with certain elegance and luxury. Peter I funded the construction of a new hall for balls and feasts.
Lefort, who wanted to train soldiers, asked Peter to give him a big drill ground for military maneuvers, as well as some funds for the barracks for the soldiers who were stationed all over Moscow. After the land and the money were granted , the drill ground was built on the left bank of the Yauza just opposite the garden and home of Lefort. That was the beginning of Lefortovo estate.
After the death of Lefort, the palace remained the residence of Peter I for a few years: there he received the ambassadors, organized famous amusements – assemblies and theatrical performances. In 1707 the palace was given to another close associate of Peter I, Alexander Menshikov, who added the second floor, the wings and the main monumental gate. Lefortovo Palace has survived in that structure to this day.
The construction of Lefortovo was continued by another close associate of Peter - Fyodor Alekseevich Golovin. In 1701 he bought a plot of land on the left bank of the Yauza opposite Lefortovo Palace and built a beautiful estate with a palace and a park (now Lefortovo Park), which, same as the palace, became the royal residence of Peter I, while he stayed in Moscow.
Lefortovo Park is one of the most famous parks in Europe. It was built under Peter I, having copied it from the famous Versailles. Later, under the Empress Anna Ioanovna the park was called the Versailles on the Yauza.
Surviving are the main alleys and ponds with a grotto (end of the 18th century.): a semi-circular stone wall with niches, decorated with columns. Near the grotto there is a 20th – century gazebo, built with the imitation of classicism.
As time went by, German Quarter, Lefortovo, became the residence of Russian tsars, where the major issues of the country’s transformation and power reinforcement were considered in the 18th – early 19th centuries.
Starting 1825, for over a hundred years, there were stationed various military training institutions.