Shanghai Daily news
The house at 338 Huaihai Road W. (top) is a rare example
in Shanghai of a residence built in the style of the mansions of the American
South. One of the staircases before (above right) and after the buildingĄ¯s
renovation which was completed five months ago.
The style of the mansion in Margaret Mitchell's bestseller `Gone with the
Wind' was rebuilt in Shanghai more than 70 years ago by an American lawyer.
Michelle Qiao walks through the building looking for traces of Scarlett
The mansion at 338 Huaihai Road W. inside the grounds of the No. 455
Military Hospital may remind visitors of the scene at the beginning of the
blockbuster movie ``Gone with the Wind'' set on the Southern plantation of
``Tara'' on a bright April afternoon in 1861.
The Shanghai residence also
has an ample porch with six giant columns, three windows set in the roof and is
surrounded by a lush garden. The red tiles on the roof are in sharp contrast
with the white walls which are as pure as the magnolia-white skin of Scarlett
O'Hara, the heroine of the Hollywood Civil War movie.
``It's built in
typical American Southern manor style like Scarlett's home in `Gone with the
Wind','' says Qian Zonghao, an expert in architectural history at the Shanghai
History Museum. ``Southern plantation owners used to watch over their fields
through the roof windows and the porch was designed to cope with the hot weather
in America's South.
``Shanghai has many British country-style or
Spanish-style villas but American Southern-style is very rare. I thought it was
the only one until last year when I found another similar, smaller white house
on the campus of the East China Law University.''
According to the archives,
American architect Elliott Hassard designed the mansion in 1931.
owner was an American lawyer named Dallas Lee Franklin who had his own law firm
in Shanghai,'' says Qian. ``He even gave himself an academic and fine Chinese
name, `Fan Kelin,' which followed the pronunciation of his English name and
which he also used as the name for his law firm. His daughter was named C.S.
Franklin and she was a columnist for the `Yankee Clipper,' a popular magazine
among Americans in Shanghai in the 1930s.
``The family was wealthy,
well-known and influential among the foreign communities in Shanghai at that
time. They enjoyed Shanghai life. They chose to stay until 1949 and although
they had always kept away from politics the legal work gradually dwindled and
they had to return to the United States in 1950.''
After the Franklins left,
their former residence was occupied by a foundation established by Soong Qing
Ling, the late honorary chairperson of the People's Republic of China and the
widow of Dr Sun Yat-sen. Next, the military hospital took over and used it as
office accommodation. Last year the house was rented out to a plastic surgery
business which spent 6 million yuan (US$722,000) on a thorough renovation
completed last September.
``When I first saw the house, it was in tatters
and oddly painted with layers of apple green, creamy yellow and even red lacquer
on the wall,'' says Li Feng, an official of the plastic surgery center who was
in charge of the renovation.
``We tried to retain everything that was
valuable, including the stone steps on the first floor, the entire staircase,
several fireplaces, the wooden floors and the general structure of every room.
It was very hard and it might have cost us only half as much if we had
demolished the house and then rebuilt it.''
The residence today does indeed
look like a beauty salon for the wealthy with its white walls, chestnut-hued
European furniture and a German-made air-conditioning system. A variety of
imported fillings for breast implant surgery can be seen in fine glass cabinets.
The novel design of the original building remains, including a lovely French
window half-way up the staircase. There's a fireplace fashioned from imported
white marble and a dressing room on the third floor lined with camphor wood
which still gives off an aromatic scent.
In the past, residents and guests
used to enter the mansion from the eastern side but today a path in the garden
leads visitors to the front door which is set on the southern side.
invited a `fengshui' master from Hong Kong who gave us this instruction,'' says
Li. ``He said in this way every visitor could appreciate the overall look of
this grand house instead of only the eastern side.''
And it's true that the
path does offer a better way for one to approach and enjoy a pretty view of this
magnolia-white house built in the architectural style of the American South
before the Civil War.
And sometimes, when the sun is shining brightly, it
seems that in the cool shadows on the porch there is a girl in a green dress
wearing green Morocco slippers and with a pair of green, willful