The enormous Rostral Columns dominate this part of Vasilievsky island. Erected in 1805-10 to celebrate Russian victory over the Swedish navy, the six rostra (prows of captured ships) on each column serve as a declaration of Russian military might. At the base of the columns, sculptures depict Russia’s great rivers in allegorical form; the Volga, Dnepr, Neva, and Volkhov, two of each on the north and south columns respectively. However, the columns are also functional; up until 1885 they served as lighthouses during nights and foggy days, and are lit to this day on holidays. Hidden inside the columns are spiral staircases which lead to the top and allow the beacons to be lit.
Behind the Spit is another of Vasilievsky’s landmark buildings, the Old Stock Exchange. Erected between 1805 and 1810, it was inspired by the Greek Temple of Hera at Paestum and designed by French architect Thomas de Thomon. In 1826-32, the northern storehouse was added. It’s decorated with monumental sculpture symbolising maritime commerce and a powerful-looking Neptune.