With the all the fanfare of the renovations at the Peace Hotel in Shanghai, its southern neighbor and one-time annex has met with fewer bells and whistles, but a grand restoration just the same.
I first learned about the annex when I stayed at the Peace Hotel in 1995. At check-in we had a choice between the north and south building.
“What’s the difference?” I asked my mom.
“There’s this building.” We were standing in the building north of Nanjing Road, the one with the green copper roof. “And another across the street.”
“Let’s stay in this one.”
Why would I choose to stay in some historically insignificant building when I could sleep under the raised ceilings of the original Peace Hotel, built in the late 1920s. It was a no-brainer, right?
Actually, no, it wasn’t. But now it’s too late.
The annex building was completed in 1908 as the Palace Hotel (photo on left), then the tallest structure on Nanjing Road at six stories high. (The Peace was built two decades after the Palace.) Moreover, the Palace replaced the Central Hotel, which was completed in the 1850s. I can’t even imagine what Shanghai looked like back then.
But thanks to many fabulous books and films, I can imagine all the comings and goings at the Palace back in the day. Sun Yat-sen once stayed there. Then during WWII, the Japanese army occupied the building. It reverted to a hotel after the war until a few years following the Communist revolution in 1949. From 1952 until 1965, the Palace was used as a municipal building. Then in 1965 it became an annex of the Peace.
While I didn’t stay at the Palace, I ate dinner in its ground floor restaurant.
Fast forward 12-15 years. Like the Peace, the Palace building underwent massive renovations. But it’s no longer part of the Peace.
It’s now called the Swatch Art Peace Hotel, owned by the Swiss watchmaker. The building provides living and workshop space for artists from around the world.