Last week, we explored the stories behind some of Shanghai's oldest and most famous accommodations that are still standing with our list of the Top 10 Historic Shanghai Hotels. This week, we bring you five more hotels, in no particular order, that bore witness to Shanghai's exciting and storied past.
While the Cathay Hotel in the Sassoon House was gaining in popularity over the first half of the 20th century, there were multiple other competitors trying to out-do the famous building. One of the competitors was the Park Hotel. Born out of the efforts of the Joint Savings Society, which was a group of merged Chinese banks, the hotel was designed by László Hudec, a Hungarian architect who was working in Shanghai at the time. The Park Hotel opened in 1934 and was Hudec's masterpiece, one of his few remaining buildings that are still standing. The design for the building was inspired by the American Radiator Building in New York City and had 24 floors, making the hotel the tallest building in Asia until 1952. Besides having quality accommodations, the hotel had a great location. During that period of time, one of the major highlights of Shanghai was the horse racing track. Conveniently, the Park Hotel was located right next to it, providing its high-class and famous guests with easy access and a fantastic view. The track has long since been replaced with People's Park, the northernmost section of People's Square. Book the Park Hotel!
Jin Jiang Hotel
The Jin Jiang Hotel is one of Shanghai's most storied hotels, once hosting the entire American delegation as Nixon and his cronies visited in 1972 and began easing Cold War tensions. The hotel of today boasts three sections: the Cathay Building, the Grosvenor House and the New South Building, also known as the Cathay Garden. The Cathay Building was built in 1929 (known then as Cathay Mansions) and the Grosvenor House was built soon after in 1935, while the New South Building was built in 1964.
All the buildings feature a European architectural-style and, more recently, some contemporary touches. The real history of this hotel lies in the later half of the 1900's. When China became the People's Republic of China with the Communist party gaining control of the country, the hotel changed. In 1951, the Jin Jiang Hotel formally opened and became the first State Guest House of the People's Republic of China. From that point, the hotel became a meeting place for foreign affairs. Politicians, country leaders and other politically-powerful people visited the hotel and agreements were signed within the hotel, notably the Shanghai Communiqué between the USA and China in 1972. Book the Jin Jiang Hotel!
Originally a residential villa, the Mansion Hotel Shanghai was built in 1929. Despite its polished and elegant design, the villa was actually a base of operations for one of Shanghai's most notorious gangsters, Du Yue Sheng, or "Big Eared" Du as he was commonly known. Talented and determined, Du was the leader of the Green Gang, handling his businesses with a diplomatic and strategic touch that was done so well it was downright criminal.
The villa itself was a gift to Du from his financial partner, and was used for his various legal and illegal operations alike. Along with doing business within the villa, the villa was also a place for entertainment and relaxation. Like Victor Sassoon, Du enjoyed the nightlife of Shanghai and made sure he was a part of it by putting together outrageous parties. The villa even had its own private stage for Peking Opera, allowing Du the ability to host his own shows. Recently, the Mansion Hotel has been restored—without the organized crime, of course. Book the Mansion Hotel!
Opened in 1930, the Hamiliton House, which had a similar design to the Metropole, and today serves as a popular restaurant. The Metropole ended up being more than just a hotel in later years. Sassoon, who was a staunch British patriot, was being pressured by the Japanese for ownership of his property and for his cooperation. He was defiant, but ultimately lost in 1941 when the Japanese took the city. With Sassoon out of the way, the Japanese took control of his buildings, and it is said that the Metropole was used for high-level governmental meetings, especially after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Book the Metropole Hotel!
Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund
Admittedly, the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund is a fairly new hotel to be included in a list of Shanghai's historic hotels. The ever-famous Hilton company only recently picked the building for the hotel and turned into a super luxurious place to stay.
So although the hotel itself is not really historical, the building it resides in is. The building of the Waldorf-Astoria was first known as the Shanghai Club, an exclusive, high-class men's club. Although founded in 1861, it wasn't until around 1910 that the building was reconstructed into what we see today. The Shanghai Club was the classic men's club: rich white males enjoying the company of other rich white males as they joked, drank, conversed, dined and played billiards together. The other famous feature of the club is the reconstructed Long Bar; based on the club's original bar, it measures 34 m (111 ft), making it the longest bar in Asia.
In 1941 the Shanghai Club closed upon the opening of the Pacific Theater of the Second World War and was occupied by the Japanese. It wasn't until after 1949 that the building reopened again under the Communist government of Shanghai as the International Seamen Club, to accommodate foreign sailors. The business changed again in 1971 when it became the Dongfeng Hotel, the most respectable detail of which being that the hotel had the first-ever KFC restaurant in Shanghai from 1990 to 1996. Hilton then acquired it in 2009, restored it, made it fancy and returned it to the classy ambiance it possessed oh-so-long ago. Book the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund!