Merry Christmas in 1936 Shanghai

Christmas in the Old Shanghai was a big thing. Christmas mass celebrated in all the churches, but Christmas was also a big party night for many. If you were looking for ideas were to spend Christmas on 1936, here are a few ideas.

Christmas at the Jessfield Club

I am not sure why this ad was in French, although Jessfield was located on Yu Yuan lu, that was outside the International Settlement. Jessfield Park (current Zhong Shan Park) must have been a far away place from the center at that time. An ideal location for a big noisy party. There is really little for be found about Jessfield Club, apart from a short article on China Rhyming.

Chrismas and New Year parties at the Astor House Hotel

The Astor House Carnival Dinner Dance was surely of much higher level. Located at the Astor House hotel, on today North Bund it was surely one of the great party of the city for that night.

Union Brewery beer Christmas gift

Finally, if one decided to stay home for Christmas, the best gift could a 12 pints of beer, delivered by Union Brewery.

Old Shanghai hotels luggage labels

The mid 19th Century saw the emergence of tourism and palace hotels. Tourism then was not for the masses, but reserved to a happy few. Starting in places like Switzerland, Italy and the French Riviera, the new establishments spread all over the world. They were massively popular in the colonies, offering an oasis of “civilisation” and comfort, far away from “the locals”. In Shanghai, the major hotels were the Astor House, the Palace Hotel (today Swatch Peace Hotel), The Yantgze hotel , the Park Hotel and the most famous, the Cathay Hotel (today Fairmont Peace Hotel). Some of them raised to the top and then disappeared like the Majestic Hotel and the Hotel des Colonies in the French Concession.

Advertising for hotels and holiday destination, not yet called “Tourism marketing” became very active. In order to attract people’s attention, hotels started to produce labels that were sticked on the traveler’s luggages. In those time, trunks and suitcases were carefully handled for those high level guests who could afford them, very different from today’s airport luggage handling. The tourists of the time would compare their destination and show off their tours of the world using the labels. Those were also often used in scrap books made during or after trips. Those are extract from my own collection. For more information about the history of hotel labels, please refer to the excellent article on the topic:

Shanghai Palace hotel luggage label

In one of the most modern cities of the time, Shanghai hotels created their own luggage labels. They followed the style evolution, the earliest probably being the Palace Hotel (1908) label displayed on the top of this post, which style matches the early German and Swiss hotel labels.

The Cathay Hotels Ltd label featuring the Cathay Hotel (1929) and the Metropole hotel (1931) is probably the most famous, having being reproduced in several books. There is definitely an oriental theme to this label with the dragons and the lettering used. The Cathay was the most upmarket of both, which is still the case today. The below label is a more detailed version of the Cathay Hotel symbol that was used in the decoration all over the hotel. I guess it is an earlier version of the label, prior to the opening of the Metropole hotel.

Shanghai Cathay Hotel luggage label

With art deco coming to the city in the late 1920’s and 1930’s, hotel labels followed the fashion. This modern style called for simplified design and highly geometrical designs were introduced, like on luggage label for the Yangtze hotel (see post “Yangtze Hotel, Shanghai”).

1930’s luggage label, Yangtze hotel, Shanghai

One of the rare but highly representative of the genre is left label from Park Hotel. The establishment itself was a symbol of Art Deco, designed by Hungarian architect Laszlo Hudec. The location is highly recognizable on the label, underlining the high of the hotel, the tallest building in Shanghai (and Asia) at the time. It also shows the main feature of the hotel, the panoramic view on Shanghai race course, making it the perfect place to attend (and bet on) the races, without mixing with the plebe. See post “Advertising Park Hotel” for more marketing material from the hotel.

Shanghai Park Hotel luggage label

For more Old Shanghai luggage labels, please go to post “More Old Shanghai luggage labels”.

Abelardo Lafuente, Shanghai Spanish architect

Old Shanghai was a place where people from many origins came to, including architects. Added with a long construction boom, this created the patchwork of architectural styles that is still visible today. The most famous architect firms of Old Shanghai were Brits Palmer & Turner, French Vesseyre, Leonard & Kruze and Hungarian Hudec Laszlo. Besides them smaller firms such Minutti (Switzerland), Gonda and Matrai (Hungary), Atkinson & Dallas (US). There was also a number of Chinese architects that designed buildings mostly from the 20s, including Poy Gum Lee.

A new one has recently got a lot of attention, Spanish architect Abelardo Lafuente. Thanks to the research of Shanghai-based Spanish architect Alvaro Leonardo, Abelardo Lafuente’s work and story was uncovered, carefully stored in Spain within Lafuente’s personal stuff.

Alberado Lafuente

Abelardo Lafuente was born in Madrid in 1871. Following his father who became the municipal architect of Manilla, he moved to the Philippines with wife and kids. Abelardo also became an architect in Manilla but most of his work was done in Shanghai after moving in 1913. He quickly made a partnership with G.O. Wooten, introducing “Mozarabic” or Moorish-Andalusian style to Shanghai. Only few of those buildings still exist, including the former Star Garage on Nanjing Xi Lu (picture further down) and the former Jewish Club next door. The master piece of the style is surely the Andalusian villa on Du Lun Lu, that is still standing. 

Abelardo Lafuente then operated alone and was in great demand for interior design, creating the ball room of several hotels. He worked for Kadoorie family Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotel Company, designing one of the extension in 1917 of the Astor House Hotel and then renovating it in 1923 (this can still be visited). He also carried a major transformation of the Majestic Hotel on Bubbling Well Road in 1923 (around of the same place as current CITIC Square on Nanjing Xi Lu).

Astor House hotel ballroom

Being the only Spanish architect in town, he also made a design for the Jai Alai building in the French Concession at the corner of Avenue Joffre (Today corner of HuaiHai Lu and Shaanxi Lu, at the place of the Paris Spring shopping mall), although it is not confirmed if his design was finally constructed. Lafuente also created film theaters for the Spanish business man Antonio Ramos who introduced cinema to Shanghai and a few villas including the former Soong villa, today’s home to Sasha’s restaurant at the corner of Avenue Pétain and Rue Francis Garnier (today HengShan lu and Dong Ping lu). 

When Lafuente went to the USA in 1927, one of his draftman, Russian architect Alexander Yaron, was made partner and kept the office running. Although Lafuente designed buildings in the USA, the 1929 crisis stopped his effort there. Without much money, he tried to return to Shanghai, first stopping in Mexico and finally reaching Shanghai in 1931. He died only a few months later of pulmonary disease probably caught in Mexico.

Lafuente exhibition poster 2011

Abelardo Lafuente’s style was unique in Shanghai. An exhibition about him and his work in Shanghai was organised at South Bund 22 in December 2011. It was organised by Alvaro Leonardo and the Spanish Cultural Center in Shanghai. Details are provided in the invitation on the left hand side.

More recent information about Abelardo Lafuente can be found on the page of the Abelardo Lafuente research project page.

Abelardo Lafuente’s supporters work helped increase his fame back in Spain, as shown by a large article in major newspaper El Pais. Here is a map with all the major work from Lafuente in Shanghai.