Renovated historic buildings in Xuhui set to open to public

Another batch of downtown historical structures will open to the public this year, including the former site of a US Freemasonry organization and the Blackstone Apartments.
Yang Jian / SHINE

The two-story brick-and-wood former site of the American Masonic Temple Association at 178 Wulumuqi Road S. will become the Hengfu Art Center for lectures, forums and exhibitions in July.

More historic buildings in the city's downtown will open to the public this year, including the former site of a US Freemasonry organization and the British-built Blackstone Apartments.

Preservation work is being carried out on a two-story brick-and-wood building at 178 Wulumuqi Road S. which was built by the American Masonic Temple Association in 1932.  

It will open to the public in July as the Hengfu Art Center for lectures, forums and exhibitions.

The Blackstone Apartments, built in 1926 as "the finest apartment building" praised by China Press newspaper, will be home to music-related bookstores, shops, a hotel and workshops of famous musicians.

The Cloisters Apartments, built in the 1930s, is being converted into a comprehensive exhibition hall to showcase the history, culture and stories behind the architecture on Hengshan and Fuxing roads.

The Hengfu historical zone will have a total of seven historic buildings open to the public by the end of the year, said Zhu Jinsong, president of the Hengfu Investment and Development Co which is in charge of the preservation and maintenance of the buildings. 

The Hengfu area has a total of 15 heritage structures, 1,074 excellent historical buildings and 1,620 preserved historical structures.

Xuhui District has already opened the former homes of playwright Ke Ling (1909-2000) and cartoonist Zhang Leping (1910-1992), as well as the residence of playwright Xia Yan (1900-1995) and the study of late translator Cao Ying (1923-2015).

Yang Jian / SHINE

The two-story brick-and-wood former American Masonic Temple Association building at 178 Wulumuqi Road S.

"These historical structures not only restore the lives of these men of letters, but also showcase traditional Shanghai-style residences," said Cai Wei, an official with the district's culture and tourism bureau.

The future Hengfu Art Center is in the same compound as Xia's residence and Cao's study. 

The English villa once served as the office building for the Xuhui political consultative conference, the district's political advisory body, so it has been well-preserved, said Zhu.

The original pillars in the main hall on the second floor will be exposed to showcase the villa's original condition.

According to Xue Liyong, a historian and researcher with the Shanghai History Museum, the building covering an area of 750 square meters was once used as a club for the gatherings and social activities of the Freemasonry organization.

Public lectures on architecture and historical buildings will be held in the main hall in future, said Shen Xiaoming, the architect in charge of the renovation work.

Shen said many classic decorations have been discovered during the renovation, such as the square and compass, the symbols of Freemasonry, as well as a bronze plate list of members.


A worker polishes windows at the Cloisters Apartments.

The Hengfu exhibition hall within the Cloisters Apartments at 62 Fuxing Road W. will open to the public later this year. 

It will showcase the century-old history of the whole Hengfu area, its urban renewal and former celebrities.

Multimedia tools such as augmented reality and virtual reality will be widely used.

The Cloisters Apartments once served as the office building for the Hunan Road Subdistrict. Many parts of the two-story structure, such as the balconies, fountains and mosaic floor tiles, have been preserved.

The Blackstone Apartments at 1331 Fuxing Road M., built by a US millionaire and missionary James Blackstone, will become the Blackstone Music Comprehensive Park. 

It aims to gather world-famous musicians and music industries with cooperation with the nearby Shanghai Conservatory of Music and the under-construction opera house of the conservatory.

According to a contemporary advertisement in China Press newspaper, the building was "the finest apartment house in China with tennis courts, winter swimming pool and dance hall."

The Blackstone Apartments’ first and second floors will be open to the public, while residents will live on the third and above floors.

According to a blueprint, the Hengfu historical area will have a "historical and cultural" section near Wukang Road and Fuxing Road W., a "music and culture" section along Fenyang Road and Fuxing Road M., as well as a "slow life" section on Yueyang Road and Jianguo Road W., the Hengfu company said yesterday.

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE
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