A Visit to the International Settlements
The view south from our apartment. In the foreground, the building with the star is the Shangahi Exhibition Center, a model of 1950's style socialist architechture built to celebrate the friendly relationship at the time with the Soviet Union. Now the Center hosts luxury car shows and IT Exhibitions! Beyond it is the former French Concession, home of many French and White Russian expatriots until 1949.
The Moller Villa just south of our apartment. It was built by a Swedish shipping magnate and racehorse enthusiast in 1936 (great timing - the Japanese took over in 1937).The race course is now the People's Square and the Villa is now a hotel.
Peacock topiary on the grounds of the Moller Villa.
The Morris Estate. Mohawk Morris was a newspaper baron. He and his son built four villas on this property adjacent to the greyhound dog racing track. The track is now a flower market. The villas like all the other international settlement mansions were either taken over by party officials or turned into apartments. Now many are hotels.
A house on Sinan Lu (Rue Massenet) that we thought looked interesting. It retains the large garden (now hung with much drying laundry) from its former glory days.
Many of the streets in the former French Concession are lined with sycamores planted by the French and make for a very pleasant walk. This is a view down Wuyuan Lu, formerly Rue Maresca. Catherine's mother and her family lived here in the late 1930s and early 40s so we took pictures of some of the architecture.
236 Wuyuan Lu like many of the remaining French concession houses is screened behind a wall and a mass of overgrown vegetation. It is literally like peaking at the past because that is all you can see. This building is now a health center.
Some of the buildings in this district have been designated historical landmarks. This nine story apartment building in the 200 block of Wuyuan Lu (Rue Maresca) is a historically protected site and must have dwarfed the surroundings when it was built. The only clear view of the local architecture is down the many "longtang" or alleyways.
Official building at the corner of Wuyuan Lu and Yonfu Lu (Rue du Pere Huc). We have no idea of what this building was since, unlike most Shanghai buildings, they did not bother to translate the Chinese characters. It had an ornate garden glimpsed through the locked gates and a number of official looking people milling around.
This historic building at 300 Wuyuan Lu did have a translation on the door: Center for Research on the Education and Care of Children. It also had a very ornate gate and 1920s facade.
The West end of Wuyuan Lu at its junction with Huashan Lu (Route Ferguson) was a local snack spot for taxi drivers. Taxis are plentiful and cheap in Shanghai. You do have to contend with the lack of suspension, the occasional flat tire and the battle to hail one however.
To the south of the old Rue Maresca lies a lush green square with more evidence of the White Russian presence in the old French concession. This bust of Pushkin was erected on the centenary of Pushkin's death in 1937, damaged by Red Guards in 1966 and rebuilt in 1987. Very colorful history.
More reminders of the Russians in Shanghai are the two Russian Orthodox Church buildings that still stand in the French Concession. At the right is St. Nicholas (after the last tsar) which is now home to the Ashanti Dome Restaurant and a charming little portrait of Chairman Mao (barely visible) in the gable on the lower right. Mao's portrait is supposed to have saved it from demolition during the Cultural Revolution.
The Russian Orthodox Mission Church is where Catherine's great grandmother's funeral was held. The church spent some time as a securities exchange and is now also a "Dome Restaurant." It must be very good feng shui to eat food in a circular room...