For three decades in the eighteenth century the present site of the Granite Terrace in the Catherine Park was occupied by the Coasting Hill with slopes that could be slid down in winter and summer. The central two-storey pavilion of this striking amusement “facility” was constructed from designs and a model made by Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli.
The pavilion was built in 1754–57 and in 1765 Vasily Neyelov added a third track on the hill. From that time on, one of the track was used in winter, the other two in summer.
Between 1792 and 1795 the Coasting Hill was dismantled and the architect Charles Cameron set about construction a large 32-column gallery of Pudost stone in its place. In the late 1790s, however, the gallery too was demolished (the materials recovered from it were later reused in the construction of the Mikhailovsky Castle in St Petersburg, designed for Paul I by the architect Bazhenov).
It was decided in the early 1800s to use the large platform left on the site of the Coasting Hill and gallery for the construction of a large granite terrace. This was designed in 1809 by the architect Luigi Rusca (1758–1822).
The Granite Terrace faces out towards the Great Pond. Flights of steps run down either side of it. The walls of the terrace are decorated with mighty Doric columns without bases that support the pillars of the balustrade. Their grey-granite shafts contrast with the pink capitals. The walls, also of pink granite, are broken by shallow niches framed by architraves of grey stone blocks.
Rusca intended to decorate the terrace with two marble statues, but his idea was not implemented. Instead, in the 1850s galvanoplastic copies of ancient sculptures – the Medici Venus, Faun with a Kid, Apoxyomenos and others – were set up on the pillars of the balustrade. This collection was produced in the workshops of the Imperial Academy of Arts using a technique that had been invented in 1838 by the Russian physicist Boris Jacobi (1801–1874). The sculptures have survived and today stand in their historical places.
In 1810, at the same time as the terrace was being constructed, Rusca created the Large Granite Pier (Landing-Stage) on the Great Pond – an architecturally simple platform with steps, four round granite bollards and railings. In the 1850s the pier was also decorated with galvanoplastic statues – the Borghese Wrestler and the Discus-Thrower – that have survived down to the present.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries there were flowerbeds on the slope of the hill. Each year hundreds of rose bushes were planted out here in the soil. The decorative parterre in front of the Granite Terrace was created to a design produced by the architect T.B. Dubiago in the 1950s.