The Astor House certainly bears a great name. The first electric light in China was lit here, the first telephone call was made from the hotel and the first Chinese stock exchange was founded right here. Among the many VIPs Charlie Chaplin and Bertrand Russell as well as Albert Einstein stayed there.
It is today called Pujiang Hotel and still retains its perfect downtown location. Some rooms are well restored. The hotel is clean and still breathes the colonial air of yesterday.
From the outside, the hotel looks like Harrods; inside is a marble-floored reception dimly lit by a huge chandelier. The air of faded grandeur is enhanced by the fact that previous guests have included Einstein and Charlie Chaplin.
Frommer’s travel guide described the refurbished Astor House Hotel: “The brick-enclosed inner courtyard on the third floor now leads to rooms that have been refurbished and stripped down to accentuate the building’s original highlights (high ceilings, carved moldings, and wooden floors). Beds are firm and comfortable, bathrooms large and clean, and there are even little flourishes like old-fashioned dial telephones.
In 2006 the Morning Shanghai restaurant opened at the Astor House: “On entering the building there is the vaulting red-brick ceiling, a European-style dome and impressive chandelier. The pillars in the lobby are replicas of the originals, and the antiques by the stairs recall times long past. Morning Shanghai’s attention to the authenticity of its dishes and the general ambiance makes it suitable for those more advanced in years to enjoy the dining experience and reminisce.”
According to Tourism Review magazine in late 2008: “In recent years through intensive restoration the hotel got a completely new look. Today, it is a unique combination of old Victorian-style design and modern facilities. It contains 116 various types of rooms, including deluxe, standard, and executive and some 4-bed rooms. Each room is well decorated while some of them in which celebrities once stayed, are taken as historic spots with photos hanging on the wall to show guests. Today there is “an eccentric style to the place. And how can you not love a hotel that makes its male staff dress in spats, kilts and black tailcoats?...With its thick lacquered walls, high ceilings, wooden floorboards and winding corridors, it has a feel that’s somewhere between a Victorian asylum and an English boarding school”.
In July 2009, the Hotel was described as “the tactfully-refurbished Astor House.”
In February 2006 the Shanghai Municipal Council announced significant renovations for the area surrounding the Astor House Hotel. According to an article by Mark O’Neill, “When well-heeled visitors arrive in Shanghai in 2009 and want to stay in a period hotel on the Bund, they will be able to choose between two properties of the Kadoorie family. One will be the new Peninsula Hotel due for completion that year and the other the Pujiang, now state-owned but which belonged to the Kadoories before 1949 and is being refurbished in the style of the early 1900s. The properties are part of an ambitious multibillion-dollar project to turn the Bund from a street of rundown commercial buildings into a Chinese Ginza or Fifth Avenue, with upmarket hotels, restaurants, brand-name stores and expensive apartments. The city government wants to complete the transformation ahead of the World Expo in 2010, when it will show to the world what it has achieved in the 20 years since its resurrection began in 1990, after the decay and neglect during the first four decades of communist rule.”
As part of the extensive renovations in the vicinity of the Astor House Hotel in preparation for the 2010 World Expo, The Daily Telegraph predicted in February 2008: “Thirty of the buildings have protected status, while the renovation of the [Waibaidu] bridge will turn attention to the Astor House Hotel and Shanghai Mansions, Art Deco haunts of the city’s pre-war glitterati….
The Astor House Hotel is one of the city’s neglected treasures and a fair bet will be that it will be restored to it former glory and, sadly, the prices will zoom up to reflect this. A price worth paying for the Astor is part of the history of Shanghai.”