The old Shanghai Club building had been closed for quite a number of years. Its transformation and re-opening in the Waldorf Astoria hotel happened with much less hype than the renewed Peace Hotel down the Bund. However, restoration of this piece of history has been very careful and the result is matching the highest expectation.
Built in 1911, this is the second building of the Shanghai Club. The male only British Club was the center of power and wealth in Old Shanghai. A few meters down from the main banks, trading houses and administrations, the club was the second home for the rich and powerful people of the International Settlement. The building contained all that was needed by its members, including bowling alleys, billiard rooms, a barber, restaurants and the long bar, supposedly the longest bar in the world. The top floors where occupied by 40 en-suite rooms for the residency of the members. The club membership was the cream of Shanghai businessman, drinking on the long bar with a carefully selected order.
The richest and most powerful would stand near the front windows, when the griffins (or newbies) would be relegated towards the back end of the room. Climbing Shanghai’s social ladder also meant going up the Long Bar. The Club also had massive dining room on the 2nd floor with giant portraits of the British Royalty. Besides the Italian marble staircases, a small lift was installed for the convenience of the members.
Unfortunately, the building suffered quite a lot in the 50’s to 80’s period. It became the seaman’s club serving a very different clientele from the dignified British gentlemen that occupied it before. The upper floor was turned into a hotel, also of much lower standard. The Long Bar was destroyed at some point and little remained of it when the ground floor was turned into the first KFC in China. Although this brought masses to the place, it is clear that no care was taken of the remains of splendor of this old lady of the Bund. Fortunately, the hotel renovation has been done with great care, recreating the Long Bar in its original location. I am sure that this piece of Old Shanghai will soon become one of the hangouts of the rich and famous of new Shanghai. The massive ball room on the 2nd floor has been renovated into the hotel main ball room. Although the British royalties portraits are long gone, the place still has a lot of majesty (except for the horrible new carpet) and gave a real official turn to the ceremony I recently attended. This would make an incredible location for one of my conferences on Shanghai history. The higher floors of the building have been turned into luxury suites that will surely attracted a very wealthy crowd. As the Waldorf Astoria is not fully open, the building still had a cozy a private atmosphere that matches the old club style. This is the best time to visit it, as the full opening of the hotel will surely change that.
7 thoughts on “Shanghai Club revival”
As an Midshipman serving with Blue Funnel and Glen Line I visited the Shanghai Club between 1964 and 1967 where we could eat and drink Seagull beer at the Long Bar. Our crew were mainly from Shanghai and the Club was the only place they could meet up with their families every 3 or 4 months so the atmosphere was relatively light and friendly despite the Communist supervision. Somewhere I am sure I have photographs of the Long Bar as it was at that time plus the entance hall with its statues of Mao adorning the area and will forward them to you if I can find them.
1 ‘ve got a overview photograph of the long bar shot in 1964. I was 2nd engineer then on a freighter of Royal Interocean Lines.
We used to eat the local speciality, fried eel and drink local beer together with our HK-chinese crew. We paid with local “Mickey Mouse money”.
Was at the Seamans Club in 1976. Working on the Cruise liner MS Rasa Sayang. First cruise ship to Shanghai in Communist time.
Could eat and drink there for very little money.
I vaguely remember being taken to the club when a midshipman apprentice on MV Flintshire by the local Brit padre (I think!). Shanghai appeared a deserted place – few if any lights on buildings, certainly no neon advertising or any such adornments and seemingly a guard on every bridge – also few vehicles (most traffic was bicycles). Oh for the luxury of mobile phone cameras in those days as I have no photos to ponder over!!
I was in the International Seaman’s Club in the old Shanghai Club, the first week in January 1973. I was an oiler on a Norwegian bulker and the one of only two Canadians in the crew. We were in port unloading wheat from Vancouver, BC.
I distinctly remember a white statue of Chairman Mao in the entrance hall. The beer was indifferent, the Tsingtao beer being somewhat better than the Seagull. The waiters also took a dim view of anyone appearing to have fun, such as singing . The traffic on the Bund was mostly black bicycles with a few Mercedes taxis scattered about. I recall there was a gift store out back where they sold some pretty neat stuff. The sales girls there were quite interesting in the fact I was a Canadian and wanted to know all about Dr. Bethune.