[photopress:peace_hotel_lobby.jpg,full,alignright]The Peace Hotel on the Bund was, for many years, the definitive Shanghai hotel. Those years are past and although the legend lives on the hotel needs a total rejuvenation if it is to attract international travelers.
Jinjiang International, a government-owned hotel chain, runs the Peace Hotel and plans to renovate the building and bring back the glory that once was Peace.
The Peace Hotel started building in 1926 and when it was opened in 1929 as the Cathay Hotel it was the tallest building in Shanghai. Those glory days are past.
[photopress:peace_hoteloutside.jpg,full,alignright]Now it is two buildings. The North Building is Sassoon House, which was the original Cathay Hotel. The South Building is the former Palace Hotel. Although both buildings both face the Bund and the Huangpu River they are divided by Nanjing Road, arguably the busiest street in Shanghai.
The original hotel was built by Sir Victor Sassoon, of the famous Sassoon family who dominated Shanghai business and real estate in the early 20th Century. He was a British Sephardic Jew of Iraqi origin, and his family had extensive business in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Calcutta.
The story is that he had serious investments in the opium trade and in real estate although the opium is normally skipped over in formal histories.
[photopress:sassoon.jpg,full,alignright]Before 1949, the Cathay Hotel was regarded as the most prestigious hotel in Shanghai and most international envoys visiting Shanghai would stay in the hotel. Noel Coward wrote Private Lives in room 314.
In 1952 the building was taken over by the Municipal Government. In 1956 it resumed trading as a hotel under the name Peace Hotel. In 1992 Peace Hotel was listed as one of the famous hotels of the world by the World Hotel Association. It still has its Jazz Band — no members under 75 — which is totally woeful, is possibly the worst jazz band in the world, plays dreadful music and is a major tourist attraction.
Now all this is to be renovated. Ma Yongzhang, the hotel’s manager, said, ‘If the renovation work does not begin soon we will lose customers.’ Ma also says the hotel’s rodent population is now under control, but agrees that standards have to be improved.
Will it be modernized out of recognition? Ma Yongzhang said, ‘The Peace Hotel will not be a copy of the Hyatt.’
No one knows exactly when renovation work will begin but it is indicative that the hotel is not accepting bookings in 2007 for large events such as conferences or weddings.
Source: dpa German Press Agency, Tales of Old China and research.