Sir Victor Sassoon (1881 – 1961) was an Anglo-Jewish business tycoon.
A major force in the development of the city of Shanghai in between the two World Wars, he had 1,600 redwood and concrete pilings installed along the city's marshy waterfront to serve as the foundation of an 11 storey hotel.
Opening on 1 August 1929, the Cathay Hotel was first high-rise building in town, soaring 77 feet above sea level.
Which begs the question, why did the hotel's latest incarnation – it reopened Wednesday 28 July as the Fairmont Peace Hotel, following a 3 year renovation – take place just 4 days before what would logically seem to be the most auspicious date?
I cannot be sure, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it might have something to do with Feng Shui! I mean, nothing significant takes place in these parts – weddings, grand openings, or product launches – without the consultation of a Feng Shui master.
But I am getting ahead of myself . . .
Cathay Hotel – Number 1 Mansion in the Far East
With a privileged location along the Bund, the hotel was often referred to as the Number One Mansion in the Far East.
It had an imposing copper covered roof, white Italian marble floors, priceless Lalique glass artwork, its own private plumbing system with water channeled in from a spring outside the city limits, and Shanghai’s first electric elevators.
During World War II, the imposing edifice was occupied by the Japanese. It was briefly in private hands again. A couple of years after the Communist Conquest, it was seized by the government to house municipal offices. It reopened in 1965 under a new name, the Peace Hotel.
The hostelry's colourful history is now on display in an exhibition space called the Peace Gallery. Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) worked with a team of designers, architects, and historians in the multi-million dollar renovation project.
The newly reopened hotel has 270 guest rooms and suites as well as six F&B outlets and a spa. And in case you are wondering, yes! There is a Jazz Club!
Copyright: Michael Taylor Pictured: the Bund, Shanghai in the 1930s