A Continental landmark on Jiujiang Road
While planning the grand emporium on Nanjing Road, the Continental Bank built a new bank and office on neighboring Jiujiang Road which was also called “another million-dollar Chinese building” by the China Weekly Review.
Designed by Messrs Kwan, Chu and Yang, the 10-story building was an imposing modern structure. According to a December 6, 1933 report in the North-China Herald, the main banking hall boasted simplicity with marble judiciously used.
“The lower part of the exterior is executed in Tsingtao granite by skilled workmen brought down from that region. The manager’s suite and the conference room are finished in Chinese palace style by painters and craftsmen who worked for the Imperial House in the late dynasty. The ceiling panels in one room are designs composed of old Chinese coins illustrating the development of coinage. The bronze work of doors, frames and lighting fixtures have been carefully wrought by Chinese workmen from the architect’s designs,” the report described.
The building now serves as the headquarters of another Chinese financial institution — the state-owned Shanghai Trust. A renovation last year has restored the Chinese-style chamber with exquisite ceiling panels and four safe vaults built by American company Mosler Safe.
“Safe was an important business of the Continental Bank, and the building has preserved more than 1,180 delicate safes left from the era. Our company also conducted safe rental business after we moved into the building in the 1990s but lost contacts with some customers after several restorations. We still couldn’t find the owners of 50 safe boxes whose valuables are still well-preserved,” says Pu Jianyue, marketing director of Shanghai Trust.
According to the China Press, the massive deposit system on the mezzanine floor of the bank building was one of the most impressive features. Close cooperation among the bank management, the Architects Messrs Kwan Chu & Co, the manufacturer Mosler Safe Company and the local agent Anderson Meyer Co Ltd have made a fine example of safe deposit construction, “incorporating all the latest and finest features of modern vault architecture and construction.”
The body of the vault is constructed of specially reinforced concrete walls that are 18 inches thick, supplemented by a steel lining composed of the highest-grade steel carefully fitted together. It becomes an air-tight chamber when the entrance and emergency doors are in closed position.
The door is constructed of solid cast steel and a series of special drill and burn-proof plates. It is locked by 24 steel bolts that are 3 inches in diameter — one of the strongest vault doors in the country and is attack-proof.
The thick-walled vault and the strong door are preserved in good condition now. Shanghai Trust is still looking for the 50 owners who might have the other key of the safe deposit box.