We all have passed in front of this building many times without even noticing it. Haig Court (today Jing An Hotel) is located on 370 Avenue Haig (today 370 Hua Shan Lu), right in our face but hidden by the neighboring towers. Its central location in the western part of the old French Concession did not escape real-estate developers and it’s something of a miracle that this building and its garden have actually survived.
On one of the busiest crossroad in Shanghai, it is right behind the Hilton Hotel and the new Hua Shan Square. Although most people have probably never noticed it, it looks today just like on this old picture (from virtual Shanghai). Built in the 1930’s, like for many buildings in old Shanghai its architecture is a mix of various styles. The outside certainly looks Spanish revival, stretched to fit a 9 storey building. Some of its Art Nouveau inspired fixtures like the rough stone wall can be found in Art Nouveau meccas such as Tallin or Bucharest. It also incorporate art Deco elements in glass works, of which a few pieces in the lobby could have been original. The garden still has a little pagoda in a corner and today’s grass looks just like it did 60 years ago. Like in many Shanghai buildings, most of the balconies have been closed to created verandas, loosing some of the original harmony.
The little secret of the building is probably its top floor. Take the lift to the 9th floor early morning, and you can get to the breakfast room with a view to the garden from what was surely the main room of a huge penthouse apartment. Then, use the stairs to reach the 10th floor and you will get to the entrance to the VIP rooms with an even better view. As you can see on the picture, the 10th floor was added later, but it matches the rest of the building. Look through the window for a garden view.
The neighboring skyscrapers have now been built all around Haig Court, but not in the garden. The view from the grass ground, near the back of the garden looks just the same today as it did on the 1948 pictures (apart from overlooking neighbors).