After the Treaty of Nanking opened China’s port cities to foreign trade, the British established their land concession and a building boom ensued. Realizing that the newly arrived foreign merchants would need lodging while in Shanghai, a Scottish man by the name of Richards opened an eponymous hotel near the Bund in 1846. It was the first Western hotel in all of China. In 1858 it was renamed the Astor House Hotel and given a luxurious upgrade, then becoming the first building in Shanghai to have electricity and running water. Even though it bore no relation to the original Astor House in New York, the Shanghai hotel soon became a beacon for the rich and powerful. Boasting not one, but two elegant ballrooms, the Astor House Hotel was the center of the social scene for the city’s expatriate community until the Cathay Hotel was built in 1929.
Much of the original hotel has been maintained and current guests can stay in the same rooms once inhabited by the likes of Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin. U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant stayed in room 410 during his time in the city in 1879. The housekeeping staff happened to be tidying up this room as I passed by and they kindly let me have a peek inside. It was stately and grand, though the twin leather chairs had seen better days. The only indication that a former President had stayed there was an old sword mounted on the wall.
Astor House Hotel
Address: 15 HuangPu Lu, Shanghai, China