Most people interested in Shanghai history know about the “Cercle Sportif Francais”, the current Okura Garden hotel on Maoming lu. The French Club as it was called in English moved to this brand new building in 1926, from its original location on Route Vallon (today’s Nanchang lu). The very large building previously used was then allocated to house the French High School or “Collège Municipal Français” in French. The garden of the Collège Municipal Français extended all the way to French Park, i.e. today’s Fuxing Park. Unfortunately the park has been separated from the building and a wall is now separating them. It would be extremely difficult to take the same picture again.
I managed to get into today’s Shanghai Science Hall on Nanchang lu, the building that was the old Collège Municipal Français. It is not a high school anymore, but a building dedicated to science studies. As such, it is sometimes difficult to enter as the guards are not happy to see foreigners coming in. The side on Nanchang lu is oriented towards North. The much nicer facade is oriented toward the South, overlooking the park. Like in many buildings in Shanghai, a south orientation allows to get some light and warmth in the gloomy winter. With the large space this building is very cold in the winter, like most buildings in Shanghai. I have not seen a real heating system in place, but the may have been one when it was built.
One of the most interesting feature is the art deco stain glass in the hall way (see picture left). Stain glasses were very much in fashion when this building was erected, as found in a number of building in Shanghai. This one is the largest I have seen in the city. I have tried to take pictures of it before, being chased out by the guard… but today was my day of luck. The stain glass is not noticeable from the outside, but really nice from the inside. Although it has been clearly repaired in some parts, it has crossed time and Shanghai history while being well preserved.
Among others, two famous authors attended the teaching of the Collège Municipal Français, Rena Krasno and Liliane Wilens. As explained by the later when we met (see post “a date with Liliane“), students of the Collège Municipal Français were French children and other foreigners, as well Chinese from Shanghai upper class society. Located in the heart of the French Concession, the Collège Municipal Français was very near to some famous residential areas such as Rue Lafayette (today Fuxing Lu) and Avenue Pétain (today’s Heng Shan lu). Since the building was not originaly designed as a school but as an entertainment club, it became a school with a wonderful design, surely giving life long memory to the children who went to school there.
This location was also the seat of the original Alliance Francaise de Changhai, teaching French to Chinese students just like it is today on the Wusong Lu campus. This very large building is still in use without much repair and still has grand style and appearance. It is very well worth a visit if you can sneak in.