Katya Knyazeva's scrapbook

Shanghai history and architecture


Looking at Jack Birns' photos of Shanghai
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The locations of some of Jack Birns' photographs of Shanghai in 1948–1949 are quite hard to identify, but this makes it all the more exciting to finally 'crack' them.

Click on any image to be taken to its address and a larger resolution.

1. The characteristic tower of Dadong (Dah Tung) Bookstore 大东书局, on the far left, made it possible to recognize this stretch of Fuzhou Road east of the crossing with Henan Road:


Dah Tung Bookstore:


The same location today looks nothing like the it did in the past, but the lot on the right somehow never gets built up:


Here Birns is looking at the same scene – which seems to be the anti-American riots of June 1948 – from the safety of the American Club on Fuzhou Road. People in the Central Police Station, on the top left, are also watching the crowd from the balcony:


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2. It pays to zoom in and scan for texts and numbers. The sign for the Cosmopolitan Restaurant (aka De Da; 德大西菜社), in the row of buildings on the right, allowed to quickly identify the Central Arcade on Sichuan Road, just south of Nanjing Road:


Cosmopolitan Restaurant:


The Central Arcade has undergone a major revamp recently:


3. The southeastern corner of Avenue Edward VII (Yan'an Road) and Sichuan Road was once framed by beautiful old-fashioned buildings, where important English-language newspapers had their headquarters:


Another angle:


Sadly, today this corner looks nothing like it used to, because everything south of Yan'an Road, several buildings deep, was sawn off to make room for the highway:


4. This composition from a series on inflation titled 'Shanghai Payday' is set against the building very similar in style to the Sassoon House. In fact this is the former Mitsui Bank on Jiujiang Road, used as the Bank of Shanghai during Burns' time:


Shanghai Bank 上海市银行 is faintly spelled on the vertical panel next to the door:


Not much change here:


5. Moving on to the French Concession (already 'former' at the time Birns was in Shanghai). This art-deco building is easy to recognize: this is the Empire Mansions, on Huaihai Road, close to Changshu Road.


A similar angle today. No more plane trees, sadly:


I recalled another photo with similar architectural detail in the top right corner. Indeed, the boarded up Yong Loong 永隆 store was in the same building:


6. This picture, thankfully, has a street sign in the frame – Ling Sen Road (which is Huaihai Road) – and the name of the business on the cross-street. This fenced off green corner belongs to Xiangyang Park:


Close-up:


Are these the same plane trees, I wonder?


7. This section of Avenue Joffre (Huaihai Road) did not get photographed much back in the day, so we're lucky Birns was interested in capturing his journalist friend standing in the street, between today's Shaanxi Road and Maoming Road:


Most of these spike-topped shop fronts have been removed, but a portion still remains:


8. Birns took several shots of this poor mother hobbling on her small feet from ricksha to ricksha. While the captured passenger appears to be rummaging in her purse for a coin, others are just turning away from the camera. The location of this road – or rather, this bridge, judging by the ricksha puller's efforts – evaded me for a while, but then I found it: this is the southern slope of Henan Road Bridge:


The bridge has gotten much wider:


This vibrant black market was on Avenue Edward VII (today's Yan'an Road). The one-of-a-kind tower of the Great World in the distance, and the Da Hu Hotel on the left were helpful in placing this image on the map:


The hotel is still a hotel (and the Great World is still there), but everything else has changed:


Another vanished corner of Avenue Edward and Tibet Road, just south of the Racecourse:


Nothing left there today:





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