[photopress:hotels_Astor_1.jpg,full,alignright]In England the Daily Telegraph reports The Bund, Shanghai’s much-photographed historic waterfront, is to get a radical face-lift.
The 100-year-old Waibaidu steel bridge across Suzhou Creek is to be removed, renovated and then replaced.
The city’s government has begun a £280 million scheme to divert the motorway that separates the Bund’s neo-classical buildings from the Huangpu river into a tunnel, and demolish the flyover that disfigures the view.
The government wants the work finished by the time Shanghai hosts the 2010 World Expo.
Thirty of the buildings have protected status, while the renovation of the bridge will turn attention to the Astor House Hotel and Shanghai Mansions, Art Deco haunts of the city’s pre-war glitterati.
[photopress:hotels_Astor_first_electric_light.jpg,full,alignleft]It is that last sentence that attracts the attention. The Astor House Hotel is one of the city’s neglected treasures and a fair bet will be that it will be restored to it former glory and, sadly, the prices will zoom up to reflect this. A price worth paying for the Astor is part of the history of Shanghai. Consider:
It was the first modern hotel in China’s history, which hosted many celebrities from all over the world.
The hotel lit the first electric lamps in China on July 26, 1882.
In the same year, 1882, came the earliest performances of the circuses from Western countries.
In 1901 the first phone call was made from the Astor.
The first Yellow Pages in the city listed the number of the Astor House Hotel ‘200,’ the first phone used in Shanghai.
On November 5, 1897, a grand dancing party was held in the hotel to celebrate the 60th birthday of the Dowager Empress Cixi.
In December 19, 1990, the first stock exchange in China after 1949 was started at the hotel.
[photopress:hotels_Astor_1_2.jpg,full,alignright]And the guest list is just as remarkable. In 1897, former American President Ulysses S. Grant. In 1920, English philosopher Bertrand Russell. In 1922, Alfred Einstein. 1931 and 1936, Charlie Chaplin.
It was originally called the Richard Hotel, after the American sea captain of the same name who was its first owner.
In 1860, the hotel was sold to Henry Smith, who changed the name to the Astor House Hotel.
1927, an eight-year-old girl named Peggy Hookham came to live at the Astor House with her family. Hookham’s father was the chief engineer for British American Tobacco and while she was here, the little girl continued her ballet lessons, studying with the Russian teacher George Goncharev. She later became Margot Fonteyn.
In 1923, the Astor House Hotel and other Shanghai hotels (including the Palace Hotel) were acquired by Hong Kong Hotels Ltd, making them Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd.
Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels were owned by the Kadoories, a Sephardic Jewish family that grew to become one of Shanghai’s wealthiest. And went on to open other stylish hotels including the Peninsula in Hong Kong.
The Astor Hotel is crying out to be restored to its former glory. It must happen. And before 2010 when the world arrives for Expo 2010.
Source: Pujang Hotel and a lot of research