Hotel des colonies

The French settlement in Shanghai was started in 1884, but it did not grow as fast as the British (then international) next to it. When the international settlement was busy with traders shipping things in and out of China, the French settlement remain a much quieter place, eventually extended to become the residential and garden city of Shanghai.

One of the few prominent buildings of the French settlement, was the “Hotel des colonies”, the only hotel of the French settlement for quite a long time. It was located on “Rue du Consulat” near the “Quai de France”, the French part of the Bund located South from the Bund itself. “Hotel des colonies” is mentioned in “Les Francais de Shanghai” and was clearly an important location both for traders coming to Shanghai and for the community. Some of the traders based in Shanghai  even lived there for years.

Hotel des Colonies
Postcard to hotel des colonies

I found the enclosed postcard in an antic shop in Malacca. It was written in Saigon and sent to Shanghai by the post, carried by ship to Shanghai French Concession. More than the picture on the front, it’s the address on the back that caught my attention. The postcard is simply addressed to “Monsieur Millon, Voyageur, Hotel des Colonies, Shanghai”. No street, no number only the hotel’s name, where the card would wait for the traveler to arrive and collect it from the counter. “Poste restante”, i.e. letter sent to a post office and remaining their until the receiver collects it used to be quite a popular mean of sending letter, although it’s quite difficult to imagine it today. It’s just nice to think about a time when time schedule was so relaxed, that people would just post the letter and wait for months until an answer arrive… what a change from today’s email. I was still quite happy to be able to check my email in the old port of Malacca. The modern world also has advantages.

For more research into postal services in old Shanghai, go to post “Letter from Shanghai Municipality” and Shanghai general post office.

17 thoughts on “Hotel des colonies”

  1. The Hôtel des Colonies was my great-grand-father hotel !! Many thanks for this article and the information it provides. I will leave France for Shanghai in two months and will be happy to go back onto my ancestors steps knowing this ! Merci

  2. Laurie are Laurence Bonnet? If yes, it’s a good thing…beacause The Hôtel was my great grand-father’s too…!!!

  3. My grandfather, who first traveled to Beijing in 1886, stopped over in Shanghaï, and spent three nights at the Hotel des Colonies while visiting the French Consulate. He was a young interpreter, just graduated from the Paris School of Asian Languages, and appointed as an official interpreter at the French Legation in Beijing. At the hotel, he wrote to his brother, based in France, how elegant was the French Concession, and how well received he was at the Hotel des Colonies.

  4. He was our great-grandfather too

    Frédéric, Pierre and Jean-Louis Seisson (Paris-France)

    Great-grandsons of Alexandre Seisson (Claviers, Var -France)

  5. hello everybody
    let me add more to the family gathering … 🙂
    Laurie is my niece , I am Thierry 52 and leave near Marseille.
    My grand grand father was Mr Paul Briol partner of Mr Wencker in the ownership of this hotel from around 1890 ish to 1902 ish .
    Both were working at Messagerie Maritimes on the Polynesian or Oceanian cruiser ship , my ancestor as 1er Maitre d’hotel and Mr Wencker in the catering dpt. On a cruise they met the owner of this hotel on the boat who was looking for successor and closed the deal.
    They managed the hotel around 10 years. The Boxer war and tough climate conditions made them leave after having made a comfortable benefit. The association of the 2 partners continued in France in another business in Gard where they produced “balais”

    Are you relatives to those 2 persons when you say you are also descendants ?


  6. This message is to contact the family of Alexandre Seisson who was the owner of “Hotel des Colonies” from March 1873 to April 1900 in Shanghai.
    Then I introduce myself …I am a researcher (living in france) on olds photographies of Asia and i write some studies and biographies about the first photographers of CHINA and INDOCHINA.
    I have a very nice photography (big size 20x 27) of your grandfather with the staff …also some olds postcards of this Hotel … i would like to write an article about this hotel and a biography on your great grandfather, then i need some informations …

  7. I have a large photography of Alexandre Seisson and his staff of Hotel des Colonies …
    If you are entered in … contact me …

  8. I would like to know if you are related with the owner of
    Hotel des Colonies.?1880 in Shanghai.
    Have a good day.
    Sincèrement. CB.20/10/19………….8 H 30.

  9. Since we are in France let go for :
    Bonjour, je suis le cousin de la petite fille de Mr SEISSON.
    Nous avons des photos et documents qui devraient intéresser la ville de Shanghai..
    Vous pouvez directement me contacter à :
    Très sincèrement.
    Claude Bernard. J` habite dans le VAR 83440.

  10. Bonjour, en retard d` une année, mille excuses.
    Je ne suis que le cousin de la petite fille de l` ancien propriétaire Mr Seisson.
    Nous avons des photos et autres documents.
    Mon E mail est:
    Très sincèrement. Claude Bernard.

  11. Bonjour,

    Je me nomme Philippe, Alexandre ,Georges Bonnet et je suis également arrière petit fils de Alexandre Seisson, qui étais le grand père maternelle de mon père.

  12. Bonjour,
    Je serais très intéressée également par des photos et documents.
    mon arrière grand père, mes grands parents (familles Bruno et Gabrielli) et mon père habitaient à Shanghai durant la concession française.
    L’histoire de ma famille et de celles qui vivaient à Shanghai à cette époque me passionnent.
    Je vous en remercie par avance,
    Bien cordialement

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