Alexander Menshikov (1673–1729), St. Petersburg's first governor, was one of Russia's more flamboyant characters. A close friend of Peter the Great (often called his favorite), Menshikov rose from humble beginnings as a street vendor, reportedly getting his start when he sold a cabbage pie to the tsar—or so the legend goes. He eventually became one of Russia's most powerful statesmen, infamous for his corruption and political maneuvering. He's said to have incited Peter the Great against his son Alexei and later attempted to take power from Peter II by arranging the young tsar's engagement to his daughter. The marriage didn't take place, and Peter exiled Menshikov and his family to Siberia.
Menshikov's palace, the first stone building in St. Petersburg, was the city's most luxurious building at the time of its completion in 1720. Although only a portion of the original palace has survived, it easily conveys a sense of Menshikov's love of luxury. Particularly noteworthy are
the restored bedrooms: the walls and ceilings are completely covered with handcrafted ceramic tiles that Peter the Great allegedly sent home from Delft for himself but were appropriated by Menshikov. After Menshikov's exile, his palace was turned over to a military training school and was significantly altered over the years. In June 1917 it served as the site of the First Congress of Russian Soviets. The Menshikov Palace is a branch of the Hermitage Museum. In addition to the restored living quarters of the Menshikov family, there's an exhibit devoted to early-18th-century Russian culture.