Pawnshop building to become museum

A former pawnshop on Wuding Road in Jing'an District will be turned into a museum, said local cultural authorities.
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

The former Yuanli Pawnshop on Wuding Road in Jing’an District will be turned into a museum. 

A former pawnshop on Wuding Road in Jing’an District will be turned into a museum, said local cultural authorities.

According to architectural expert, Zheng Shiling, the building that housed the historic Yuanli Pawnshop, which was built in 1922, is the largest and best-preserved pawnshop building in Shanghai.

The three-floor wood-and-brick structure was once surrounded by high, thick walls to deter burglars. The building features a number of Western design elements, including Roman pillars at its front gate and a doorway decorated with Baroque carvings.

In its heyday, it was said that the pawnshop had a vault filled with valuables. The vault doors were made with 50-centimeter-thick steel and were so heavy that they required two men to open them, according to the Jing’an Cultural Bureau.

The pawnshop quietly closed down in 1946 and was later partitioned into smaller flats occupied by multiple families. The passage of time was not kind to the building, which suffered from damage and lack of repairs over the years.

In 2003, the building was at risk of demolition but more than two dozen families living there successfully petitioned for its restoration.

In 2011, the pawnshop was officially deemed an immovable historical and cultural relic by the district government. But after residents moved out as part of an urban renewal campaign, the building was left empty and dilapidated.

The structure got a new lease on life last year, when plans were drafted and approved for its restoration and transformation into a museum.

Under the plans, the original white and grey walls, facade carvings and interior decorations will be restored. An old-time pawnshop will be recreated on the first floor, while the history of Shanghai’s financial industry will be told on the second and third floors.

Restoration has started and is set to be completed by the end of the year, authorities said.

Last week, Jing’an set up the city’s first historic architectural experts’ studio. Experts there, led by Zheng, will exchange their ideas on historical preservation and promote restoration skills. It is hoped that the studio will advise historical preservation work throughout the district.

Yu Wen, Party chief of the district’s housing authority, said it has become common knowledge that historical preservation is a priority for Jing’an.

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