Katya Knyazeva's scrapbook

Shanghai history and architecture

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On top of the Xiaonanmen Watchtower
For many years I longed to climb on top of the Xiaonanmen belltower, but was always stopped by its keepers. But this intrepid French girl, apparently, managed to do it and saw this:

The exploration report and more pictures are on her blog.

Over 1100 historic photos of Shanghai mapped on PastVu
Link to the map

See the map.

Among the recent additions:
- Werner von Boltenstern's photos of clothing stores on one stretch of Fujian Road;
- various bookstores on Fuzhou Road;
- a very thorough coverage of the Star Garage on Bubbling Well Road, including views from the back;
- several shots of Central Garage, on Hongkong Road, including a panoramic roof view;
- the Eastern Garage that suffered from a fire in 1918;
- the Union Garage on Avenue du Roi Albert;
- multiple shots of the Grand Garage Français;
- several photos of the Horse Bazaar and Motor Supply at the edge of the Racecourse;
- other elegant garages in the French Concession;
- three great architectural drawings of the Young Apartments on Avenue Joffre, authored by C. F. Butt;
- several views of early Rue Mercier, when the space between the Cathay Theatre and Cathay Mansions was still occupied by old villas;
- the beautiful office building of Brunner, Mond & Co. on Sichuan Road;
- Robert Dollar Building on Canton Road;
- a clearer shot of Hongkew Cinema than I had before;
- the Houston Court Apartments at the corner of Avenue Joffre and Avenue Haig, and a little villa next to it, where the Jiaotong University station's Exit 7 is now;
- Hudec's Union Building on Sichuan Road;
- the beautiful Siming Bank on Beijing Road (its decaying grace has always intrigued me);
- Beijing Road ferry wharf;
- two verifiable images of the West Gate in the city wall;
and many others...

Just did you know...
...that all these buildings were under construction simultaneously, in March 1921, indicating 'Shanghai's faith in the future?' The Standard Oil Building, the Jardine, Matheson & Co., the New Central Garage, the HSBC Building, the Chartered Bank of India, the Nissin Kisen Kaisha, the Great Northern Telegraph Building, the Dollar Building, the Glen Line Building...

'On the Bund – the main street of Shanghai – there is so much building going on that if a resident of the city were to leave now, he would hardly recognize the place upon returning a year or two hence.'

Zoom in as much as you like at the source page.

Source: Oriental Motor, 1921.

Got another Russian architect: W. A. Fedoroff

W. A. Fedoroff, a Russian architect, designed the Dufour Apartments! Need to find out more. But here is a nice writeup by the fellow researcher Lara de la Harpe, .

#90 Shanghai Architecture Series: Star Garage (in Russian)

The American brothers Max and Leon Friedman, who bought the Star Garage from the Spaniard Albert Cohen in 1918. Source: Oriental Motor (1920).

The native streets of Shanghai (1920)
The Chinese City in the eyes of the automotive industry: 'meh.'

Source: Oriental Motor (1920).

Press 101 years ago

From Millard's Review of the Far East, Jun 9, 1917.

Motoring glamour in old Shanghai
The most recent batch of photos uploaded to Virtual Shanghai is quite a treat. Someone went around the city between 1930 and 1932 and meticulously photographed car sales offices, showrooms, service stations and garages. The result is a unique collection of little-remembered architecture that lined ordinary streets in the International Settlement and French Concession. Some of the buildings are very utilitarian, while others are nothing short of spectacular. I tried to identify the locations where I could.

This art-deco beauty was right next to the Lyceum Theatre in the French Concession:

The interior was also triangle-themed:

This sprawling auto salon Honigsberg & Co. occupied the site of the Park Hotel:

In fact, part of it survives to this day, built over and joined with the Park Hotel:

This exotic beauty on West Nanjing Road is still around:

Bills' Motors at the corner of Maoming Road and Yan'an Road still operates as a car dealership. It had an extra floor added some time in the 1930s:

The Grand Garage Français at the corner of Avenue Dubail and Avenue Joffre, unfortunately, perished during the widening of Chongqing Road:

The Horse Bazaar and Motor Supply was, for a while, the last low-rise building on the north side of the Racecourse, trapped between such giants as Park Hotel and Foreign YMCA:

That Shanghai would become an auto capital was evident already at the dawn of the 20th century. In 1911 there were several Chinese and foreign taxi companies and car rentals in Shanghai. The building of the Central Garage that opened on Hongkong Road in 1921 was the largest in the Far East:

The Honigsberg salon (at the Park Hotel's spot) was at the same address already in 1920, and possibly earlier:

In 1919 the Oriental Motor magazine began to be published. It once ran a photo of the west end of Avenue Joffre, near today's Tianping Road, with a caption: 'One of Shanghai's invitations to motorists. Looking out Avenue Joffre from Route Prosper Paris.'

For more auto-related texts and photographs, I recommend the rest of the NARA collection, the Oriental Motor magazine and this PhD thesis.

Motors Defeat Bolshevism (1920)
Some ideas from the Oriental Motor magazine (1920):


'One of Shanghai's invitations to motorists. Looking out Avenue Joffre from Route Prosper Paris:'

The Old West Gate (Laoximen) when it was still a gate
The Old West Gate 老西门, also known as Phoenix Gate 仪凤门, was a complicated construction:

A large rampart protruding west had a door for pedestrians that opened to the south.

Here is a view from a bit further away. The 'stickers' around the gate vary, but the pattern of broken bricks around the arch confirms this is the same gate, only seen from a higher angle.

Source: H. B. Morse "In the Days of the Taipings" (1927).

How do you get to shoot at this angle?

[Continue reading...]
Evidently, by standing on the walkway above the water gate and looking north:

I am not 100% sure the image below shows the West Gate, but the scale seems about right. The flat walkway with a spiky fence above the water passage are similar to the second photo:

The water gate allowed Zhaojia Creek 肇嘉浜 to escape the walled city. The creek served as a primary connection with the villages west of Shanghai (when it was not tragically silted like in the photo above):

There is a cornucopia of images on the internet of various Shanghai gates, but many of them are mislabeled. This one, for example, claims to show the West Gate, but it is unclear how it fits with the images above. The top of the wall looks much newer, which would be characteristic of the eastern side, always better maintained, and not the neglected western side. This could be Shanghai wall, just a different gate:

I like this image very much, but Shanghai city wall had one arrow loop per merlon (sic!), not two:

This is the same place from a different angle. The image comes from a reputable book published by the Municipal Archive, yet I suspect this is not Shanghai:

Here is another attractive image, but I think the arch of the gate and the sparce placement of the holes, one for every three merlons, are different from the Shanghai city wall. Also, the scale looks more massive: a part of the rampart is visible on the right. The photographer, William Saunders, travelled China extensively, and could have taken it anywhere:

View from the wall 11415d2b59ef1438f8fb6dbebf08cdb0.jpg
Source: 150 Years of Real Estate in Shanghai.

Not a trace was left of the wall, the gates or the creeks left after their removal in 1912:

In the next installment we will look at the images of the east-facing gates.


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