Brooklyn Court, Routes des Soeurs

People often ask me why I am so fascinated by old Shanghai. The answer is very simple, there is a sense of mystery about it, of uncovering a past that was long lost. In my (nearly five) years in Shanghai, a lot has been re-discovered and documented… but there is always something more to find.

ARCO logo on the wall
ARCO logo on the wall

Walking on the Ruijin Er lu, we passed an old building near the corner of Huai Hai Lu one spring evening. The buildings on the East side looks old and tarnished, particularly compared to the newly renovated Estrella Apartment, designed by Laszlo Hudec, on the opposite corner. We were looking at an old door in what was probably its grand entrance, when we noticed the sculpture on the wall (picture left). After some research, it became clear that the “ARCO” sign stands for “Asia Realty Company”. This American company was the largest property owner in Shanghai and had a large office building near the Bund. Like many others, the building has suffered a lot from the lack of maintenance, various episodes of Chinese history and the add-hoc transformation by residents. Despite all this, the sign of the original owner still stands in its place.

Street facade of Brooklyn Court
Street facade of Brooklyn Court (building left)

The facade on RuiJin Lu has seen better days, but would surely look great after some renovation. The bottom floor of the building is occupied with shops, as probably in the original design. Real-estate in this part of town was surely not cheap when this was built, and has become again very expensive. The building has three entrances, a central one large enough for cars to go through and two smaller one for access to other apartments. The main entrance of Brooklyn court leads to a back yard, passing by entrances to the apartments above and a cross shaped light well (picture down). The left entrance is occupied by a temporary socks shop. The ARCO sign is located right above the shop’s display on both sides. The shopkeeper was really surprised that I wanted to take a picture of this “thing on the wall” that she probably never noticed before.

Light well in Brooklyn Court
Light well in Brooklyn Court

In my old Shanghai documents collection, there is a rental contract for an apartment in building in what I thought was on Rui Jin Lu. The address of the property was “143H Rue des Soeurs”, not so different from the 143-145 Rui Jin Lu, where the ARCO building is. However, from an old map of the French concession, it shows that this particular section of Rui Jin Lu (from Avenue Joffre / Huai Hai Lu to Avenue Foch / Yanan Lu) was called Rue des Soeurs… the 143 Rue des Soeurs is this particular building. “Brooklyn Court” was clearly an upper class residence. This part of Avenue Joffre was an upscale area, with proximity to the “Cercle Sportif Francais”, The Cathay apartments, the Lyceum Theater, the French Park (now Fuxing Park) as well as the French municipality. This old piece of paper that I bought 2 years ago turns out to be a rental contract for an apartment in this particular building. Too bad it’s not valid anymore… Sounds like a great place to live.

For info about Brooklyn Court, go to post “Return to Brooklyn Court“.

9 thoughts on “Brooklyn Court, Routes des Soeurs”

  1. I have been tracking a Jewish refugee from Poland who was evacuated from Japan to Shanghai in 1941 and remained in Shanghai until 1949. Her name was Antonina (Toni) Altszuler. After the Ghetto was abandoned, she lived at 338 Rue Bourgeat. Do you know what kind of housing this might have been and any clues to what she did in Shanghai? She mentions in documents that Fr. Dr. H. Thaus at 152 Route Des Soeur was her closest relative. Do you know what 152 Route Des Soeur was in 1949? I do not think that Ms. Altszuler had any relatives and Dr. Thaus meant something to her.

  2. I read your article when I searched for the correct spelling of Rue des Soeurs, as my recently published book, ‘Where Tigers Flew’ about growing up in Shanghai during World War II and the Japanese occupation of that city, is about to be presented as an audio book. I want the French pronunciation of the former French named roads to be correct.

    I am sorry I do not know the answers to your questions, but I know there were quite a few Catholic convent schools in that area; one being Santa Sophia. Hence the name Rue des Soeurs, Road of the Sisters. My cousin, who was about eight years old at the time attended that convent school about seventy-eight years ago.

  3. My grandparents, mother, uncle, and aunts lived in Brooklyn Count 【法租界, 圣母院路, 153号C2】1937-1945, few weeks before Japan surrendered in WWII, they went to a Catholic girls’ school nearby. They had a playmate named Maullitta Tause, who had a German mother and a Jewish father, who was a dentist. After Pearl Harbor, Maullita’s father had to go across the garden bridge every day to spend the nights in the Jewish ghetto. Any suggestion on finding Maullitta Tause? They left Shanghai for US after WWII.

  4. My mother: Rue de Soeur, Brooklyn Court 153 C1, went to Aurora Middle School. Maulitta’s family was in 153 C2. .

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