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Katya Knyazeva's scrapbook

Shanghai history and architecture

Old photos on Taobao
Photographic prints from personal collections sometimes land on Taobao. Here is a selection of Communist-era mementos from various vendors:

A Red Guard, with the characteristic armband, is biking along Changle Road, with the Cathay Mansions in the background. Look ma, no hands! It takes some skill to plan a shot like this.

Another Red Guard, visibly proud of her armband, is posing in the People's Park, with the former Park Hotel in the background. December 1966.

A Red Guard and her friends are posing against the Sino-Soviet Friendship Palace. Such good faces, some of them...

A group is posing on the Bund, with the Peace Hotel in the background. May 1964. Brother, husband and mom of the girl on the right? Or her husband, father and mother?

A girl in Xiangyang Park in the 1950s, with the Russian Cathedral in the background.

Curious about the scaffolding.

Three cool lads on the Bund in the 1980s.

This is a 1950s postcard showing the boating lake in the Peoples's Park (those were the days!). Moore's Church is in the background in the center.

This photo is probably from before 1949. "Rich beauty" (in the words of the Taobao vendor) is posing in the French Park, with College Municipal Francais in the background.

#113 Shanghai Architecture Series: Parc Ravinel (Xiangyang Park)
This article was written for the weekly architecture series in Russian in Magazeta.

The location of Xiangyang Park might appear a little strange, because back in 1941, when the park was created, this neighborhood was already immersed in green. To the west, across Route Doumer (Donghu Road), there were the extensive gardens of College Sainte Jeanne d'Arc and St. George restaurant. On the opposite side of Avenue Joffre (Huaihai Road) there were empty overgrown lots where boy scout organizations pitched tents and organized summer camps virtually in the wilderness.

Gardens of St. George and College Sainte Jeanne d'Arc. Werner von Boltenstern, 1937, LMU.

Xiangyang Park is, in fact, an afterthought. It owes its existence to the failure to build a huge administrative complex for the French Concession, which would have massively changed the cityscape and moved the urban core to the west. This plan was in the making since 1930, because for fifty years the French administration had been using the same old building of Hotel de Ville, at 176 Rue du Consulat (Jinling Road), which had gotten so frail it had to be propped with beams.

The propped wall of the old Hotel de Ville, with Chung Wai Bank in the background. The North-China Herald, Nov 1936.

In 1931, the French municipality purchased two lots for the new civic center – one owned by the China Realty Co. and a larger one with the burial ground of the family Xue. To ensure easy automobile access to the new site, it was decided to extend Route Lorton (Xiangyang Road) to connect Route Paul Henry (Xinle Road) with Avenue Joffre (Middle Huaihai Road). This news alarmed the Russian community, which had been planning to break the ground for the construction of the Orthodox cathedral on Route Paul Henry, close to the future intersection. The 1932 plan of the architect B. I. Petroff had to be redrawn to take into account the extension of Route Lorton.

Russian Cathedral original plan Petroff 1932.jpg
The plan of the site for the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, submitted by B. I. Petroff in December 1932. Shanghai Real Estate Archives.

The narrow strip of land between the new cathedral and the road made the Russian church leaders uncomfortable, so the construction was postponed to collect the funds to purchase this strip. In the meantime, one Orthodox bishop died and another was appointed, which led to a different architect becoming the head of the project. That was Jacob Lehonos, who proposed a larger and more symmetrical building pushed closer to the corner. See this post for more details about these decisions and the construction of the Cathedral. If not for the extension of future Xiangyang Road the Russian Orthodox Cathedral would have looked very different today.

The project of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, submitted by B. I. Petroff in December 1932. Shanghai Real Estate Archives.

In the meantime, the French organized a contest for the best design of the new administrative complex, and unsurprisingly, a project by the firm of Leonard, Veysseyre and Kruze took the first and second prizes. The project, widely publicized in July 1935, consisted of a sprawling ten-floor building at the northern end of the lot and a landscaped lawn in front of it, going all the way to Avenue Joffre.

Plans the new French municipal building by Leonard, Veysseyre and Kruze. Le journal de Shanghai, 1935.

This plan did not come to fruition, although the promise to begin construction continued to pop up in local newspapers until the end of 1936. As it was growing clear that the new civic center was not materializing, the French leadership had to be content with moving into a renovated school building on Avenue Joffre, in October 1936. Pre-war tensions and various foreign trade contingencies drove up the cost of building materials, so that even Route Lorton could not be extended until 1937. When the Russian Orthodox Cathedral was finally completed in April 1937, it was still not sitting on the corner of two streets.

View from Weida Hotel over the unrealized French administration and the realised Orthodox Cathedral. Harrison Forman, 1937, AGSL Collections at UWM.

The hapless lot between Avenue Joffre and Route Paul Henry was eventually turned into a park, which opened in January 1942. It had a wide diagonal alley in the center and over one hundred young plane trees. The park received its name – Parc Ravinel – in honor of a French consular employee Yves de Ravinel (1911–1940) who died in the war in 1940, and there was even a plaque in his honor in the park.

Parc Ravinel soon after its opening. Des Courtis family archives, Virtual Shanghai.

Anyhow, the name Parc Ravinel did not appeal to the public either, who preferred to call it Park Doumer 杜美公园 even though Route Doumer does not reach the park. In the next eight years the park changed name four more times. In July 1943, Vichy France abandoned its concessions and colonial possessions, which led to mass renaming of urban objects in Shanghai, so a little over a year into its existence Parc Ravinel became Taishan Park 泰山公园. After the war, in 1946, it was renamed Linsen Park 林森公园, while Avenue Joffre was renamed Linsen Road.

Corner of Linsen Road, with Linsen Park behind the bamboo fence. Jack Birns, 1949, Life Magazine.

At last, in 1950, the name Xiangyang Park was affixed and has not changed since. The "scribe of Russian Shanghai" Vladimir Zhiganov, who was stuck in Communist China against his will, recorded that a public toilet appeared on the northwest corner of the park, right opposite the Orthodox Cathedral. He was convinced this location was chosen specifically to humiliate the remaining foreigners and to show them Shanghai was no longer a place for them. Considering the Pahsenjao Cemetery had been turned into a washing site for manure carts at around the same time, Zhiganov might not have been too far from the truth. The park has recently undergone an extensive renovation, but the public toilet is still there.

Xiangyang Park in the 1980s. yiyi01831 at sina.com.

This article was written for the weekly architecture series in Russian in Magazeta.

See historic images of the park on PastVu:

Thanks go out to Didier Pujol for the clarification about the dedication of the park to Mr. Ravinel.

Le journal de Shanghai

Le journal de Shanghai is a veritable trove of great pictures, especially the issues published on Bastille Day, July 14, when all the glories of the French Concession get recounted. But the rest of Shanghai gets proper credit as well, like the insane collage below demonstrates:

Yes, you will see skyscrapers across the Huangpu soon enough.

A lesser-known project of the Russian Cathedral in the French Concession
The Russian Orthodox Cathedral at the corner of Route Lorton and Route Paul Henry, built between May 1933 and April 1937, took a long time to come into existence. The land for the church was purchased in 1927, and the first plan was drafted in 1929 by the architect L. N. Pashkoff. In fact, Pashkoff drafted three plans and all of them were selected as the top three projects. I have not had a chance to see any of them, but it is known that the proposed church was in Vladimir-Suzdal style and had nine domes. It would contain 500 to 700 people.

Pashkoff's ideas had to be set aside while the construction commitee struggled with various obstacles and raised extra funds. In summer 1930, the French Concession authorities announced the plan to extend Route Lorton further south, so the new church would now be close to a street corner, but not quite on it, separated from the street by a narrow strip of land.

In the meantime, the Bishop Apartments, used as a temporary church and living quarters for the clergy, was built. The colorized photo below shows the Bishop Apartments and the lot reserved for the cathedral. One can see the articulated street corner for the future Route Lorton, and the narrow strip of land between the bamboo fence and the rounded corner, which is not part of the church lot:

Keeping in mind the extension of Route Lorton, the Russian architect B. I. Petroff submitted his project in December 1932 (and it is only today that I learned about this from this article). The plan shows the Bishop Apartments with a passage in the middle and the strip of land between the church and the future road, named in a funny patois "part surrender for elargissment of the road":

This looks like a pleasant building, but its design exposed the uncomfortable dimensions of the lot, which forced Petroff to abandon the highly desirable cross-shaped plan for the church. The construction was put on hold while the community was raising money to purchase that extra strip of land along the prospective road to make sure the church would end up on the corner and unobstructed.

Although the strip was successfully purchased, the Bishop Simon supervising the construction died in February 1933, and the appointment of John Maksimovich – who would become the famous Bishop John of Shanghai – led to the rotation of the chief architect. In early June 1933 J. L. Lehonos (Likhonos) submitted his project of the enlarged Cathedral and immediately its cornerstone was laid:

Lehonos's design became the basis of a collaboration between the two architects, which resulted in the cathedral as we know it today. Both Petroff and Lehonos are credited as architects, but clearly Lehonos was the leader and the spokesman for the project. The church resembles a scaled down copy of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, although Lehonos did not admit it, claiming inspiration from a broad variety of Russian religious architecture. Here is his drawing published in June 1933:

If I were better educated in the history of Russian art and architecture I would be able to describe and classify stylistic differences between this and Petroff's earlier proposal.

This famous photo above, from Zhiganov's Russians in Shanghai, shows the eastern side of the almost finished cathedral and the church yard where the entrance would be. That empty space was built up with houses years later.

While the Cathedral was completed in April 1937, the extension of Route Lorton, which delayed the construction, came to a standstill. This photo by Harrison Forman, taken in 1937, shows the absent Route Lorton (Parc Ravinel in the foreground, lined with sheds, is used as a temporary internment camp for Chinese citizens).

Wouldn't it be fun to be from this lineage

Thanks to Meena for reminding me of this lot.

#112 Shanghai Architecture Series: Metropole Hotel

Read the article in Russian or use an online translator of your choice. See historic photos of the Metropole on the map.

Addictive super-zoom panorama

This is 2.3 km away from the camera:

Grand Hotels of Shanghai: 6 Star Hotels

Click to enlarge.

Astor House -- Cathay Hotel -- Yih Ping Shan -- Nanking Hotel -- Metropole Hotel -- Palace Hotel

This attractive and clever selection of "6-star" hotels was published in the China Press in February 1933 to warm up local public to the opening of the movie Grand Hotel after the eponymous Vicki Baum's novel.

#111 Shanghai Architecture Series: Bearn Apartments

Five years ago I saw this fake fur coat in the Sanlin Warehouse and tried to investigate its provenance. Now here is an article on Bearn Apartments where Joffre Millinery was located. Read it in Russian or use the online translator of your choice.

M. A. Kichigin's Studio. Corner of Avenue Dubail and Marcel Tillot, Bearn Apt. 10. Lessons in drawing, painting and sculpture.
(Ad from the 1937 magazine Parus)

A Full Run of Israel’s Messenger, Shanghai: 1904-1941

I hope it sold to a university library that will digitize it nicely and offer for free use (and not to Brill that charges mercilessly). Anyway, Jews of China has some downloads.