The rise and fall of the Majestic Hotel

Shanghai has always been a city of fast paced life and constant change. One of the best example is the fate of grand hotel shooting star, the Majestic Hotel (大華飯店 or Dai Hua Jiu Dian in Chinese) on Bubbling Well Road (today Nanjing Xi Lu). As seen on a 1932 map below, the hotel was occupying an enormous plot, on what is today Nanjing Xi Lu, from Jiangning Lu all the way to Taixing lu.

Location of Majestic Hotel on 1932 map of Shanghai

The building and its park were originally the McBain residence, of a successful business man who represented Shell (among others) in China, and sold the property to Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels company, owned by the Kadoorie family.

Majestic Hotel Garden

Renovation and transformation of the building was given to Spanish architect Abelardo Lafuente in 1924. The inside yard was covered to be converted into the dining room, modern sanitary and heating system was installed and the facade was covered with marble. The garden remained despite the addition of a winter garden and a massive ballroom (designed by Russian architect Alexander Yaron) that became the center of Shanghai Social life for the upper class for a few years.

Advertising leaflet for the Majestic hotel

The Majestic hotel was the best and most luxurious in Shanghai and one of the leading hotels in the World from it’s opening in 1924, being the jewel of the Hong Kong and Shanghai hotels company. The gigantic ballroom became the place for most important official parties to take place, including St Andrew’s and St George’s, the Washington and the Russian ball as it was the largest venue in Shanghai, able to host more than 1000 guests.

The majestic hotel ballroom

The ballroom was also one of the main point where Shanghai dancing craze started, with a jazz band featuring, local stars such as Serge Ermoll and Whitey Smith. In 1927, the Majestic Ballroom was the location of a major event, the wedding of Chiang Kai Shek, the ruler of China then, and Song Meiling (See the Soong Sister for more information). In 1929, Hollywood star Douglas Fairbank and his wife Mary Pickford visited Shanghai and stayed at the Majestic, underlining its success on Shanghai scene.

The winter garder shows the opulence of the place

With all its grandeur, the Majestic Hotel proved to big and too luxurious to be really profitable, and the hotel was sold to developers in 1930 (source: Hong Kong and Shanghai hotels official website). At the same period, the Cathay hotel (today’s Fairmont Peace Hotel) opened on the Bund. The Majestic hotel ballroom finally closed in 1931 and the building was destroyed in 1932. The massive land was separated in several lots, including the one where Majestic Theater was built in 1941. The former location of the hotel is similar to the one of today’s Westgate Mall on Nanjing Xi lu.

Corridors of the Majestic Hotel

A few years after writing this post, I found new pictures of the Majestic Hotel taken for the 1929 Autumn Flower Show that took place there. Please follow the link to post “1929 Flower Show at the Majestic Hotel“.

26 thoughts on “The rise and fall of the Majestic Hotel”

  1. Thank you for sharing the information, filling up a missing puzzle on my knowledge of old Shanghai. Its name in Chinese is 大華飯店, Dai Hua.

  2. Strange… I don’t remember the Majestic Hotel…. Was it near the Grand Theatre? As a child in the 30s I can recall Cathay Mansions and Palace Hotel .
    Thanks for the memories….!

  3. The Majestic was pretty much the star of the 20’s. By the time you could remember, it was already gone. Such was and is the speed of Shanghai.

  4. I am not sure exact when the building itself was destroyed. The plot was carved out in the 30’s to be developed in separate blocks with several buildings that are still visible today built in the 30’s.

  5. So interesting, I was too young to remember the Majestic Hotel I do remember Cathay Hotel and the flooding in Shanghai.We lived in the French Concession. Wemt to the YMCA all the time. Ove all the old memories. Thanks

  6. Thank you very much for the information! I was trying to find something about 大华饭店; but it had been a dissappointment. Your article clearly answered all my questions.

  7. I am trying to find out about the Majestic appts. on Bubbling Wells Road and wonder if you know anything: I believe the building survives. Many thanks.

  8. Thank you very much for the information! I’m trying to find something about Majestic Hotel for my study about the interior designers in Shanghai before 1949. Would mind to give me some photoes without marks?

  9. wonderful to find this thread
    losing the majestic was a loss architecturally, ( way b4 my time yah!), but we are lucky that much of the beauty remains..along nanjing lu, along the bund…and more.

    i feel pity for all the tourists i see who just walk past but dont go inside to feast their eyes..

  10. I left shanghai 1958 I don’t remember this hotel but I know Majestic Theatre my parents mentioned many times about the majestic hotel it’s grand and luxurious yet its only for the upper class of Shanghai.
    It’s all gone with the Dynasty. Only in our memory. What a pity and sad.

  11. New book ‘Kings of Shanghai’ has lots on the Majestic and Cathay Hotels.Book is about the 2 families who owned the 2 hotels:Kadoorie and Sassoons and is a great read

  12. Small correction. The Chinese is actually dahua fandian, not dahua jiudian.

  13. My father, half Russian, half Jewish grew up in Shanghai (and earlier in Harbin). He cooked wonderful Chinese food that he said he had learnt in the hotel his stepfather managed. He would go down into the kitchens. We were also told that it was the hotel where Chang Kai Shek was married and I’m pretty sure it must have been the Majestic. Are there any records of management from that period? His stepfather, not a very nice man, was William James John Gast.

  14. My great-grand-father, 2nd president of one of the first hotels for foreign guests in Japan, stayed at the Majestic Hotel in 1925, at the very end of his around-the-world-trip. He was so interested in how HSH managed the hotel. Reading your article, I now have a vivid image of what my ancestor experienced almost a century ago. Thank you.

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