Katya Knyazeva's scrapbook

Shanghai history and architecture

Sticky Post
See all entries on Shanghai Russians.
See all entries on the old town.

Click here to see all topics or use the Search box on the top right.

Read my article on Vladimir Zhiganov on academia.edu.

Читать о шанхайской архитектуре по-русски (серия в Магазете).

The Pity Of It
It was after midnight and bitterly cold – so cold that even the police seemed to have found some warm spot and were not to be seen – when a party of ladies and gentlemen came out of the Tkachenko Cafe on Avenue Joffre, where they had partaken of something to warm the inner man after a cold ride from the cinema. On the sidewalk they were accosted by a little fair Russian girl, about seven to eight years of age, poorly and insufficiently dressed. She was shivering in the biting wind and sobbing bitterly.
After giving her some small change one of the party, a Russian gentleman, asked her why she didn't go home; she replied between sobs that she wanted to go home out of the cold and had already been to the house three times with the money she had begged, but each time the money was taken out from her and she was driven out into the cold again by her father and mother.
They tried to find out where she lived, but owing to the great dread that she had of her parents, she refused to tell or even allow them to go with her to the house, and as there were no police to be found, nothing could be done, which was perhaps good, as there would have been one member of the child's family at least, who would have been very warm that night, in fact, one might say, disagreeably warm.

A vignette in The China Press, 12 Dec 1929.

#77 Shanghai Architecture Series: Baxianqiao (Pahsienjao) Cemetery, now Huaihai Park (in Russian)

Boris Krivoss: the most prolific Russian architect you've never heard of

You'll never find the name of Boris Krivoss (pronounced Kreevosh) on heritage plaques, although many of his buildings still grace the streets of Shanghai. He was one of those architects, builders and landlords, whose entrepreneurialism drove the building boom of the 1930s. I'd love to attach his name to the multiple villas and apartment houses that he built. I've identified 7 surviving buildings so far and keep looking for others.

[Click to read more...]

'Boris Vladimirovich Krivoss, based in Shanghai since 1921. He founded his architecture firm in 1925. Active in construction and real estate.' (From Zhiganov's Russians in Shanghai.)

1. Joffre Arcade 霞飞市场. 542 Middle Huaihai Road.

Built in 1922 (according to the Chinese internet), but the ads for this commercial complex begin to appear in the press in 1935. Joffre Arcade consisted of a five-story apartment building 飞龙大楼 (once considered one of the 'high rises' of Avenue Joffre, along with Bearn Apartments and Young Apartments). The arch in the building led to a courtyard where four small blocks of commercial properties and more apartments were located.

Russian merchants turned the Joffre Arcade into a veritable 'Russian bazaar.' Multiple beauty salons, hairdressers, tailors, clinics and cafes were located here. (The 1939 map above does not fully reflect the composition of the complex in its heyday).

A 1935 ad for Simen's Beauty Parlour.

Even apartments used as residences had something to advertise: 'Miss Vorob, recently arrived from Hollywood, gives ballroom and stage dancing lessons. 542 Avenue Joffre, Apt 69. Phone 80254.' (The China Press, 1935).

2. La Tour Apartments is a small apartment house inside Lane 275 South Xiangyang Road. Initially, the building was named Dennis Apartments, but with the emergence of the much anticipated and large Denis Apartments on Bubbling Well Road, Krivoss had to change the name of his project to the modest La Tour Apartments, after Route Tenant de la Tour (now Xiangyang Road).

Many thanks to Olga Merekina for these photographs! The building has some beautiful art-deco ornamentation on the exterior and interior doors.

Krivoss's company owned most of the buildings inside the lane 275, and he rented them out. One of them had '6 rooms, 2 modern bathrooms, large kitchen, servants' quarters' and potentially a garage.

3. Western Apartments, 25 Route Petain (now Hengshan Road).

A small apartment house turned at an angle to the street, built in 1931 (or earlier). It also had to change its name once. Initially, Krivoss named this building after himself, Krivoss Apartments, but later changed his mind, and his last name went to his other project (see p. 4 below), while this one became Western Apartments.

4. Krivoss Apartments. A string of renovations left this building so faceless that for years I presumed it was new. But the maps confirm: this is Krivoss Apartments. For several years Krivoss's office was located in a villa in front of the building, until it was demolished some time in the 1990s. Boris Krivoss and his wife lived in Krivoss Apartments, in the penthouse.

In the late 2000s the building housed a restaurant that served Sichuan-flavored dishes made exclusively of rabbit meat. Everything was insanely spicy and completely delicious. But the restaurant was unpopular and went out of business pretty soon.

5. Tiny Apartments, 78–86 Route Grouchy, built in 1929 or 1930. This street was a predominantly Russian territory, and in all years the tenants of this small apartment house were Russians.

Map from virtualshanghai.net.

6. Nesthouse Apartments 巢居公寓, Nanyang Road, built in 1932. This is one of the larger apartment houses authored by Krivoss. It even received an anticipatory writeup in local newspapers. The flats had either two or three rooms, 'each flat containing a large bath and refrigerator, in addition to the kitchen equipment, lighting, etc.' The building had central heating. 'It is finished in artificial marble inside, wich facing brick on the outside.' The flats had suspended ceilings to reduce heat in summer, while 'floor slabs are both heat- and sound-proof.' (The China Press, July 1932.)

'The new apartment building, now being erected on Nanyang Road, which will be completed sometime in November. It will contain 12 modern flats, equipped in the most up to date manner, and has a rather modernistic style of architecture inside and out. The firm of B. Krivoss designed and is constructing the building.' (The China Press, July 1932.)

This facade corersponds to the left side of the building on the drawing above. Photo by John Meckley.

Half-erased lettering above the entrance Photo from the real estate site.

7. Blue Hospital, 185 Route Dufour (today's South Wulumuqi Road).

The hospital operated by the Russian doctor Mrs. Perevosky from Harbin had a very brief life. It opened in 1930 with a lot of pomp in the press, but two years later it was in debt and had to be auctioned off. In 1933 the building became a residence, which still stands.

Krivoss would buy lots in central French Concession, build properties on them, move his office into his latest creation to use as a showroom, sell the house or rent it out, and then move on. His office changed its address practically every year.

In 1928 he built a handsome villa at the corner of Avenue Haig and Route de Say-Zoong (where Hilton stands now) and moved his office there.

Ad for Krivoss's villa on Avenue Haig, The China Press, March 1928.

Later that year, his office moved to another showcase villa, on Route de Zikawei (Zhaojiabang Road):

'You can buy this land & residence. Located in the best residential district of the French Concession. Price 9000 taels net.' The China Press, Aug 1928.

In 1929 he relocated to a storefront on Avenue Joffre, and in 1930 his office was on Sichuan Road.

'Why pay rent? Build your own home.' Krivoss' company ad in September 1929.

Having reached quite a renown and wealth, Boris Krivoss and his wife went on a world cruise. Upon their return to Shanghai he shared his impressions of the trip with local journalists. He liked Hollywood: 'Some say it is garish and ornate. I think it is marvelously planned and an excellent place to live.' He disliked the garbage in the streets of New York. He loved the skyscrapers and lamented the 'mucky and soft' quality of Shanghai soil. Czechoslovakia, the land of his ancestors, made him nostalgic. In conclusion, he said: 'I'm glad to be back in Shanghai, just the same. I consider it my home, and here are all my friends and business associates. I've seen Shanghai grow, and it has a big future. Sorry I missed the war (the Sino-Japanese conflict of 1932 – KK). There is apparently a great amount of work for everybody in Chapei.' (The China Press, July 1932.)

The architect Charles Henry Gonda

Source: minguotupian.com.

This is a portrait of C. H. Gonda, the Hungarian architect behind many Shanghai movie theatres, office buildings and the Sun Sun department store. According to SASS, he came to China in 1919 and initially worked for the Probst, Hanbury & Co 公平洋行, before founding his own architecture firm in 1922. The SASS article also claims he was a Viennese Jew, educated in Vienna and Paris; I don't know how accurate this is.

Shanghai Volunteer Corps marching through Shanghai
While I was still wondering about the uniform of the man on the photo in the previous post, I was pointed to some footage of the S.V.C. marching through Shanghai. There is always something exciting about the moving image that beats the impact of seeing archival photographs!

There are many more movie clips from the AP archival footage that I'll be browsing tonight, instead of writing my paper...

Ghosts of Zhiganov
I am working on a paper for a food-themed history conference, and as I was going through my sources, I reread the article The Russians in East Asia by a certain Colonel Nikolayev. It was published in 1944 in The XXth Century, a Nazi publication covered by Paul French. This time I looked closer at the illustrations, and although the image quality is low, I realized the men on both photographs look strikingly like Vladimir Zhiganov, the author of Russians in Shanghai.

Left caption: "A vendor of Russian newspapers and magazines displaying his goods to a prospective customer." Right caption: "The Principal and the smallest student of St. Tikhon's Orphanage in Shanghai."

Knowing Zhiganov's explicit anti-Nazi stance it is unlikely he would voluntarily pose in two different roles to help illustrate Nikolayev's article. But it is possible the photographs were obtained without this purpose. I know this is far-fetched, but doesn't the man's hat in the left photo and the uniform in the right photo resemble those below? Both men above have Zhiganov's characteristic narrow moustache and pronounced vertical creases on both cheeks... Or maybe I'm just seeing things.

Uniforms of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps. Zhiganov is on the left. The photo on top has the same breast pocket, same cap, no belt, the epaulettes are not visible. I wish I could decipher the rank of the person on the top right photo. Zhiganov wrote he was in the rank of a Sergeant in the SVC.

Zhiganov in 1940. Same hat as the top left photo?

Just how cosmopolitan can you get?

From The China Weekly Review, June 1949.

This is a 1949 ad for a sukiyaki restaurant called Runo ('golden fleece' in Russian) that claimed to specialize in famous Russian dishes, such as Georgian shashlick and smoked fillet, but also served real Indian chicken curry, and, well, still more Russian dishes. But the important part was the summer garden anyway.

The setting was pretty, indeed. The restaurant was well-appointed in a large villa that in 1919 belonged to the family of an English engineer, Alexander Malcolm, and in the 1920s – to another engineer, Andrew Howard Gordon. The building, unfortunately, is no longer there.

The earliest Russian pimp in Shanghai?
This is an excerpt from H. B. Morse's "Trade and Administration in China" illustrating the typical criminal cases in Shanghai's foreign courts. At the time, the Russian community consisted of about 350 people – and at least one of them managed to lure an Englishwoman into a brothel. Interestingly, he was given an easy two-week term in prison and excommunication from Shanghai – but where? to Vladivostok?

The North-China Daily Herald gives some extra details on the mysterious persona of Alec Alexander. He elected to stick to his Russianness when it came to choosing which court to be tried in:

The North-China Daily Herald, 4 Dec 1906.

Overall, it was since the arrival in Shanghai in 1905 of the cruiser Askold – the casualty of the Russo-Japanese war – that Russian men began to feature prominently in local criminal chronicles, charged with drunkenness, brawls, knife attacks, unpaid hotel bills, and assaults on rickshaws.

#76 Shanghai Architecture Series: the French Municipal Council (in Russian)

Père Robert's prophecy fulfilled ahead of time
"The development of Shanghai since 1928 has been greater than of any other city in the world, and I see no reason why within a hundred years it should not become the largest city in the world."*

French Concession in 1900 (source).

Rev. Father Robert, Superior General of the Societé des Missions Etrangeres, said this in an interview to the North-China Herald on 2 March 1937. The street in Shanghai named in his honor, Route Père Robert, is now known as Ruijin Road. During his time on the French Municipal Council, from 1888 to 1903, Father Robert was active in the planning of the French Concession. With his own hands he drew the (almost) straight line of the future Avenue Joffre (Huaihai Road) and the curve of Avenue Haig (Huashan Road). At the time of the drafting the Council felt his plan was "over-ambitious," but Father Robert thought he actually erred on the side of caution. And it was the filling of the "winding, smelly Yangkingpang" (now Yan'an Road) that "truly marked the beginning of the modern development of Shanghai."

Elaborating further on Shanghai's future, Father Robert mentioned that "further expansion northwards is impossible owing to the Yangtze River, and possibly improbable eastwards and westwards owing to the Huangpu River," but "there is no limit southwards." He believed there was "no geographical reason" why the city should not "spread and spread until it engulfed" Hangzhou and Suzhou.
* All quotes from the North-China Herald and Supreme Court & Consular Gazette, Mar 1937.


Log in

No account? Create an account