The Swatch Art Peace Hotel is on the site that was first occupied by the Central Hotel in 1854. The three-story structure was the city’s most luxurious hotel at that time. In 1905, its owner, Central Stores Limited Company, decided to renovate the building and re-name it the Palace Hotel.
The British architect Walter Scott was invited to submit his designs. Scott, who was born in India and educated in Britain, had lived in China since 1889. He was instructed to respect as many of the hotel’s existing structures as possible.
In 1907, prior to the completion of the renovation, a fire led to extensive damage to the building under construction and the Board of Directors chose to commission a completely new building. The new Palace Hotel finally opened its doors for business in 1908. The year above the door, 1906, reflects the date of the architect’s blueprints.
Later known as The Peace Hotel South Building and today as the Swatch Art Peace Hotel, the building enjoys protected status as a cultural monument. The Swatch Art Peace Hotel project has engaged experts in historic preservation who, in their restoration efforts, have respected the building’s cultural heritage and its status as one of Shanghai’s most significant and well-known landmarks. Interestingly, its elevators were the first in Shanghai to carry people.
In its long history, the Palace Hotel welcomed a number of illustrious guests and hosted some notable events including the First International Opium Conference in 1909. Political leader Sun Yat-Sen gave an important address there after becoming the provisional President of the Republic of China. Chiang Kai-shek and his fiancée celebrated their engagement at the Palace Hotel.