Historic hotels offer more than a view

Updated: 2015-04-17 12:14

By Xu Junqian in Shanghai(China Daily USA)

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Historic hotels offer more than a view

A jewel on the Bund, the 86-year-old Fairmont Peace Hotel stands out among Shanghai's luxury five-star hotels with its old-world glamor and celebrity anecdotes. Photos Provided to China Daily

Some of the city's luxury hotels served as venues for acts that changed history, such as former US president Richard Nixon's visit in the 1970s

Luxury hotels in Shanghai have served some of the world's most important personages in recent decades, from Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge last month to former US president Richard Nixon in the 1970s and silent movie star Charlie Chaplin in the 1920s, when the city enjoyed its golden era.

Hotel prices hit a record high last year as one night at the Mandarin Oriental Pudong's 788-square-meter presidential suite went for 160,000 yuan ($25,800).

While some luxury hotels cater to demand by offering a dizzying array of amenities, such as an in-room jacuzzi or elaborate personal mini-bar, others draw on their experience of hosting presidents of countries and other VVIPs to market themselves.

Fairmont Peace Hotel

The 270-room Fairmont Peace Hotel has a special place in Shanghai's history.

For decades, its copper-covered pyramid-shaped roof and granite facade have defined the Bund skyline and exemplified the city's glamorous nature, reflected in its nickname "the Paris of the Orient".

Construction of the building known formerly as Sassoon House began in 1926. This 12-story Gothic-style edifice soon became the flagship property of owner Sir Victor Sassoon, a British Sephardic Jew and scion of a wealthy banking family who invested over $5 million in it and brought in 1,600 pieces of redwood to finish the job.

Chaplin enjoyed some downtime on the teak spring dance floor of the hotel with his amour Paulette Goddard when they toured Asia in the mid-1930s. They stayed in room No 51, which has since been changed to room No 568 but remains an attraction because of its storied history.

Former Kuomintang (KMT) leader Chiang Kai-shek announced his engagement to Soong May-ling at the hotel's Chinese restaurant on the ground floor in 1927, less than one year after the hippest location in town was partially reconstructed.

It also catered to English playwright Noel Coward, one of the highest-earning writers of the time, who famously drafted his comedy Private Lives in room No 314. The three-act comedy of manners was released in 1930.

The hotel's revolving door, which opens onto the Bund riverfront, was used by important guests like Bill and Hilary Clinton in 1998. However, the door is closed most of the time. Some claim this is because it breaks with classical laws of fengshui, which state that a main entrance should not face water.

The hotel has survived the bombs of World War II and another turbulent decade during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76). It underwent three years of renovation and reopened in 2010 in a bid to restore its former glory. It is also famous for its decades-old jazz band.

Inside the hotel's simple but faintly Gothic facade are nine themed suites. A moon gate, an architectural feature common in landscaping in East China, separates the dining room and bedroom in the Chinese suite.

Address: 20 Nanjing Road E

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