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

The Burlington Hotel, Bubbling Well Road

Posted: June 1st, 2018 | No Comments »

My eternal thanks to Jamie Carstairs and the Historical Photographs of China project at Bristol University for permission to use this image of the Burlington Hotel.

The Hotel features briefly in my new book City of Devils but, although I had read references to it in various places (not least the Shanghai Municipal Police records as a place of illegal gambling on occasion) I’d never seen a photo of it. It stood  at 135 Bubbling Well Road (now Nanjing Xi Lu) until they changed the numbers in the mid-1930s and it became 1225 (which has led to some confusion over the years as to where it was). It is now sadly under the enormous, and distinctly less appealing, JC Mandarin  Hotel. According to Edward Denison is his essay Chinoiserie: An Unrequited Architectural Affair contained within Anne Witchard’s collection British Modernism and Chinoiserie the hotel’s architects were the British firm of Robert Moorhead and Sidney Halse.

The hotel was around for a long time and may have had several iterations and lots of refurbishments and adjustments. It was one of the first hotels in Shanghai to offer central heating in all rooms (1904) as well as telephones in every suite and modern elevators. A certain Mr Bourke was a long serving manager.

Adverts from the mid-1930s offer single rooms at $8 and doubles for $15 – the hotel accepted Chinese guests. During the ‘Solitary Island’ period the hotel was occasionally a base for Free China hitmen sent into Shanghai by the Nationalists to assassinate supporters of Wang Jing-wei’s puppet collaborationist government. The hotel continued to operate as the Burlington during the war, though seems to have become a little more down-at-heel – they staged boxing matches in the ballroom to attract customers. ITs fortunes continued to fall – indeed during and after the war it was often referred to in memoirs as ‘seedy’ – signs saying ‘NO COOKING IN ROOMS’

You can see a luggage label for the Burlington here on the Picture This site

My post on “Old Bill” Hawkins and the Burlington Hotel gang is here


Image courtesy of David Noyce and Historical Photographs of China, University of Bristol.

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