“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Will They Really Destroy Hongkou Fire Station?

Posted: December 7th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

Some worrying news recently from some friends that visited a “heritage” conference in Shanghai that turned out to be far more about destruction than preservation. Among  large number of buildings previously thought protected, but now not, one that stands out in my mind as I always enjoyed passing it and admiring it – the Yichang Road (formerly Ichang Road) Fire Station at 216 Yichang Road in Hongkou, which was formerly the Hongkew Fire Station (and is still a perfectly adequate functioning fire station).

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The station was completed in 1932 – replacing an older station that stood there before and had become too small to cope with demand as the suburb of Hongkew expanded and became more densely populated. It is a classic Municipal Council design and opened for business in 1933. There was accommodation for four engines and twelve firemen, recreation rooms, kitchen etc etc. Rewi Alley got his first job in Shanghai at the station and passed his exams for engine driving, pump operation and started Shanghainese lessons while there.

I’m not going to argue about it – if this is bulldozed it will be a major tragedy and an act of vandalism – I’d like to say “unparalleled vandalism” but that wouldn’t be true in Shanghai given the last two decades of destruction.

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2 Comments on “Will They Really Destroy Hongkou Fire Station?”

  1. 1 Andrew said at 9:39 am on April 8th, 2018:

    Paul, if it’s any consolation, the station is still there. I saw it yesterday, and it is magnificent to behold. On the other hand, my wife’s old lilong neighborhood down the road has been destroyed to make way for a shopping mall and subway station.

  2. 2 Paul French said at 8:02 am on April 9th, 2018:

    Andrew – cheers – I was in Shanghai a few weeks ago and spoke with the Hongkou redevelopment people and I’m afraid that the plan is still that eventually the fire station site will be redeveloped and that there are no plans currently to preserve the building indefinitely. Paul


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