The picturesque Xinhua Road is known to many in Shanghai for its abundance of architectural gems.
Originally named Amherst Avenue after its construction in 1925, this narrow 2.4-kilometer-long road borders the former French concession and today extends east to west from Huaihai Road to Kaixuan Road.
Despite being situated in the heart of downtown Shanghai, this tranquil road seems far removed from the commercial developments taking shape all around it.
Located in what was once known as the “Columbia Circle” neighborhood of Shanghai — which took its name from the former Columbia Road (now called Panyu Road) — real estate developers and architects built scores of garden houses along Xinhua Road, several of which were home to foreign nationals during the city’s treaty-port days.
Behind the buttonwood trees, more than 100 garden villas and heritage buildings still remain on both sides of Xinhua Road, with many designed in traditional Dutch, Spanish, French and Chinese architectural styles.
For a glimpse into Shanghai’s rich and colorful past, here is our guide of some of the most unique historic sites on Xinhua Road.
No.231: Former residence of Rong family
This Italian style country villa is also called the “Roman Home” and was built by the Rong family in 1932, a well-known family of wealthy tycoons. Rong Desheng built the house as a dowry for his nephew Rong Shuren, the sister of Rong Yiren, the late Vice President of China during 1993-1998.
Lane 211 and 329: Foreign lanes
These two U-shape lanes were together called the “Foreign Lanes” because many foreign nationals lived here in the 1930s and 1940s.
More than 40 garden houses in the “Foreign Lanes” quarter that are now protected.
Some buildings here were designed by the architect Laszlo Hudec, including No.36, Lane 329, also known as the “Cake House” for its circular shape.
The two-story garden villa with a blue roof was once the home of a Spanish diplomat before being purchased by Zhou Junshi, the former president of Tongji University.
No.1, Lane 211 was previously home to the British-born manager of the Shanghai Colombia Phonograph Records Factory.
Also designed by Hudec, this 934-square-meter Spanish style villa has two distinct arched chimneys.
House B, No. 32, Lane 329 is a garden house in English style with Roman elements. Built in 1925 with a design by Hudec, it was the former site of the old Swedish Legation.
No.1, Lane 185: Garden residence
This brick and concrete composite structure garden house was designed by famed architect Laszlo Hudec in 1930.
Lane 593: Meiquan Villa
An early high-end residential community, Meiquan Villa was designed in 1933 by Xi Fuyuan, one of the renowned architects in China. The complex contains 20 two-story houses of wood and brick. The project was funded by real estate developer Wu Qida, who lived in building No.10.
No. 200: former residence of Chen Guofu
This garden residence features a mix of Eastern and Western architectural styles and was once the home of politician Chen Guofu and his wife.
No. 336: Garden residence
This two-story French style garden residence now houses the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra and the Shanghai Light Music Orchestra. The site was the former residence of American Military Lieutenant General Claire Lee Chennault and his Chinese wife Anna Chan Chennault.
No. 315: Garden residence
An English country style garden residence completed in 1930.