As foreigners created a living space in Shanghai from the 19th century, they introduced various services to support life in the new city. I mentioned schools with the College Municipal Francais and postal services in previous posts. Hospital was another of the public services that were created.
The first foreign hospital in Shanghai was the Shanghai General hospital opened in 1864 on the Quai de France, or French Bund, at the corner of Rue Colbert (See post “Rue Colbert” for more on this street). This building was a few steps away from the new French Consulate building also located on the Quai de France (See post “Former French Consulate” ). The hospital was staffed with nurses from Les filles de la Charite de Saint Vincent de Paul, a French Catholics order.
According to “Histoire de la concession Française” by Maybon & Fredet, the ground rental was stopped in 1875, and the hospital had to move. It was then decided to build a new one. The hospital needed a large area for a reasonable price and ground price in central Shanghai was already very high. After much debate, a plot was chosen on the North side of the Suzhou River in the International Settlement. “At that time, it was nearly still the countryside. Few people lived there as it was away from the Shanghai city itself.” Like for the General Post Office next from the new location, the choice was difficult and it took a long time to decide as the move would add 10 to 20 minutes of transportation in case of emergency. It is very amusing to notice that the same area is now considered very central and desirable.
The hospital building was of Colonial British Style, that as now mostly disappeared in Shanghai. As the city developed more capacity and space was needed and more buildings were added on the same plot, a red brick building on the right and a neoclassical building on the left. The left one is probably from the 1910s as it looks similar to other buildings from this time. The right one is probably from the late 1920s or early 1930s looking at its architecture. Above picture shows that the garden on the Suzhou creek side was already well maintained, long before the recent recreation of the Suzhou Creek promenade.
In the 1930’s the nurses were replaces by another Catholics order, the “Institut des soeurs Franciscaines”. The picture right shows an operation theater staffed with nurses from this order. The Shanghai General Hospital was still one of the main hospital in the International Settlement, along with “Hopital Sainte Marie” (today’s Ruijin Hospital), the German hospital (today’s HuaShan hospital), Lester Hospital on Shandong lu and Shanghai Country hospital (today Huadong hospital).
As for many historical buildings in Shanghai there was little maintenance over time. The original middle building was replaced by a concrete cube probably in the 1970s. Both side buildings got added floors and transformation to gain space. The left building can be seen on the righ side of left picture. It suffered the most. The right building was kept in better outside shape. Both did not escape destruction in April 2010, just before the Shanghai Expo opening. Only a small red brick building on the right has been kept, being the last remaining part of the former Shanghai General hospital. It was the former morgue of the hospital.
August 2018: A new building has been built on this location and just opened as the Bellagio hotel. The fake Art Deco style is supposed to match the location’s history but has none of the grandeur of the original. The remaining building has been renovated and is mentionned as the former Shanghai General Hospital.