Katya Knyazeva (avezink) wrote,
Katya Knyazeva

Richer than Du

...Continued from the previous post.

While I was proctastinaning examining the high-angle aerial shot of Du Yuesheng's 杜月笙 house, my attention was drawn to the block just west from the gangsters' dwellings:

click to enlarge

These mansions exceed Du's and Zhang's homes in opulence and the size of the lots. The one on the right is comprised of several buildings, with a large garage, a guard's house on the corner, a pavilion and a landscaped garden. The one on the left also has a lush garden and a pavilion immersed in greenery. I thought they could have been institutions, but the map from 1939 marks them as residences:

The address of the property on the right seems to be 4 Rue Baron Gros, while the left one is on 25 Rue Amirale Bayle.

In the early-twentieth-century Shanghai, prior to the construction boom of the 1930s, there were some extraordinarily opulent dwellings in the French Concession and the International Settlement (I did an illustrated post on them last year). The selection of buildings below are not the mystery buildings on Rue Wagner, but they illustrate the scale and opulence:

The residence of Liu Han Nie in 1917

The residence of the HSBC director in 1906

Office of the Alfred Dent & Co in 1917

Eventually, I identified the mansion on the left:

Originally it was Bei Runsheng's residence, built in 1911; later it became Longmen Middle School:

So who is the man so rich that his property was four times larger than that of the opium king of Shanghai? This is Bei Runsheng 贝润生 (1872–1947), a paint magnate, and that was only one of his properties. By some accounts, her owned over a THOUSAND houses in Shanghai (of which the Pei Mansion on Nanyang Road survives and thrives to this day). Bei also bought the famous Ming-era Shizilin garden in Suzhou and financed its restoration. While Du Yuesheng was "new money" (and dirty money), Bei's fortune was, evidently, the result of his extremely high class position and the fortuituous situation on the paint market prior to WWII.

This villa on the corner of Rue Wagner and Rue Amiral Bayle was built in 1911 in the Western style. The garden around it was landscaped to resemble Shizilin garden in Suzhou (although from looking at the skyview shot I didn't get the feeling of the same complexity). After the Liberation, when the school moved into the building, it still had the garden with its twisted rocks, ponds, bridges and old magnolia trees.

Bei Runsheng and family in Shizilin in Suzhou

Bei Runsheng was IM Pei's granduncle. When the house started to get demolished in 2001, the Bei family appealed to the press and authorities, but this had no effect and the mansion was demolished. Gone with it were all the buildings on twenty-five city blocks (!), to make the green space underneath and around Yan'an elevated highway:

Photos from here

The identity of the mansion next to Bei's is still under investigation...
Tags: 1910s, architecture, crime, du yuesheng, french concession, investigation, map, shanghai, then and now

Posts from This Journal “french concession” Tag

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