On the opposite side of the Great Neva stands the exchange; and west from it, fronting the Little Neva, the customhouse—both large and imposing structures. Immediately adjoining are two high and slender towers, adorned like the Columne Rostrate of ancient Rome, from which the approach of shipping may be observed. These columns are hollow, and on their summits, which are reached by a flight of iron steps, are gigantic vases that, are filled with combustibles on all occasions of public illumination. The erection of the whole, including the quays, occupied nearly twelve years, from 1804 to 1816. The great hall of the exchange, which is of colossal proportions, is lighted from above. At either end on both sides are spaces in the form of arcades: in one of the first stands an altar, with lamps constantly burning, for the benefit of the pious Russian merchants, who always bow to the altar, and sometimes even prostrate themselves, on their entrance, to implore the favor of all the saints to the ir und ertakings.
see more - St. Petersburg - Imperial Palaces, etc.
Sears, Robert. An Illustrated Description of the Russian Empire. New York: Robert Sears, 1855