You might already have noticed that I am fascinated by the glamour side of Shanghai 30's. No wonder then that I tell you today about the tycoons and the wealthy people of these years who gave the city some of its most beautiful buildings and landmarks. One question is to know how they got rich? Another one is who were they? I mean were they only some westerners coming into Shanghai to take advantage of the "Unfair Treaties" or were there also some Chinese among them to get the best of those golden years? Let me tell you their stories.
Jewish sefardim
In previous articles, I introduced Victor Sassoon, the descendant of David Sassoon, a wealthy merchant from Baghdad. Victor decided to bring back the family fortune from the North of India to Shanghai to invest massively into real estate at the turn of the 20's. The most visible trace of this policy is the magnificient Peace Hotel on the Bund. Very similar to the story of the Sassoons is the carreer of Elly Kadoorie (nearby photo). Elly Kadoorie's family is also from Baghdad and he started working for David Sassoon's company in Hong Kong in the first place. He made his business with opium trade and turned his nose into real estate as the city was expanding in the 20's. His former residence was called Marble Hall as a reference to the Carrara stone used for the main hall. It is still now used as a Children's Palace (photo above).
British entrepreneurs


Among the most talented entrepreneurs cming from Great Britain was the Swire family. Their Hong Kong based company is still today one of the largest in Asia (Swire Group - Taikoo Group) providing services for Cathay Pacific or bottling Coca Cola in the whole Pacific zone. Their landmark in Shanghai is undoubtedly the Xinguo Hotel (photo nearby) with its seven buildings in Tudor or colonial styles. Warren Swire, the last of the Warrens in Shanghai apparently seldom used them. On the Former Quai de France of the Old French Concession, "Bund 22" were his offices.


Henry Moriss also descends from a British family coming in 1966 to invest in Shanghai. After his mariage with the daughter of the owner of the North China Daily in 1880, he decided to buy the newspaper. The North China Daily was called "The Old Lady of the Bund" as it is the oldest British newspaper in Shanghai. His son Henry Moriss Jr (photo beside) had a passion or horse and greyhound races. So he built his residence in the center of the French Concession, nearby the Canidrone in order to train his dogs. The Moriss Estate is now the Ruijin Hotel Intercontinental.After the Communists took over, the proprietary ended his life in the gardener's pavillion!

Celebrities of the French Concession 

imageFelix Bouvier, the proprietary of the Canidrome (the dog race track, nearby photo) and the Hai Alai (Basque ballgame), lived for a while in the building of the Canidrome. The place was the largest ballroom in town with some two luxury restaurants and a gambling place. Felix Bouvier started his carreer as an accountant before he started creating investment companies. He also managed the Grand Garage on rue Joffre (Huai Hai Road). In 1930, there were less than 2000 cars in Shanghai as importing a car from US or Europe was most expansive!


The Comte Armand Pac de Marsoulies is a highly controversed character of the French Concession. He was closely linked with the "Society of the Three Prosperities", actually the facade for traffic and refinery of opium of the Green Gang. The Comte built an actual French style casttle on Route Delastre (photo) which is now part of the Ruijin Hotel. He was eventually poisonned by Du Yuesheng, the godfather of the Green Gang in 1932. His wife inherited the chateau and the nickname of "merry widow" after entertaining herself in it!