Thursday, August 12, 2010

Restored Dignity

Charlie Chaplin stayed there. Noel Coward wrote "Private Lives" from the comfort of one of the suites. The all-night costume balls, boozy dinners and back-room business deals are things of legend in this city once known as the Paris of the Orient. And then suddenly, with the outbreak of war, the party was over at the Peace Hotel.

There is no other landmark in Shanghai so closely associated with the city's storied history. The hotel's heyday lasted a scant eight years, from its opening as the Cathay Hotel in 1929 to the outbreak of fighting between Japan and China in 1937. The hotel, along with much of Shanghai, fell into disrepair.

Today, it has returned to its boom-time roots. After three years, $73 million worth of refurbishment and more than a few delays, a meticulously restored and updated Peace Hotel reopened last month, hoping to offer visitors the modern equivalent of 1920s luxury. (At modern luxury prices: rooms start around $350 a night.)

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