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Yangpu to preserve historical residence

YANGPU District is to come up with a plan to preserve a more than 80-year-old private residence that was on the verge of demolition, in response to a plea from a renowned architecture-protection expert.

District officials said they were still working on the details of how to preserve the residence, called Nie's Garden.

"We are finalizing the scheme to see what we can do with the valuable architecture," district official Wang Xuhui said yesterday.

Ruan Yisan, a Tongji University historical relics researcher, found Nie's Garden on Liaoyang Road at the end of last year while researching the current condition of longtang, a traditional type of alley dwelling in Shanghai.

He wrote a letter to the Yangpu District government appealing for the historic site to be preserved after learning of plans to demolish the buildings.

"It's very urgent," Ruan wrote in the letter. "As the residence hasn't be been listed as one of the city's protected houses, it is facing the threat of being pulling down at any moment."

Belonging to the Nie family, the compound was built in the early 1920s and the 8,240-square-meter site includes six houses and a huge garden with brooks and pavilions.

Nie Jigui was an official at the level of city mayor and his wife, Zeng Jifen, built the residence and moved the family there.

"Nie's Garden has both historic and architectural value," Ruan said. "The design of the houses is a combination of Shanghai's shikumen and a western style. But it also has historical value as the former residence of some renowned figures."

After 1949, 67 households moved into the houses and factory workshops were built in the garden. To this day, Shanghai Yaming Lighting Co Ltd still occupies some of the garden workshops.

But the area is to be developed for commercial use, according to the district's urban planning department.

Twenty-two households have moved out of the garden, and some of the buildings have already been dismantled.

Many residents, however, have refused to leave, saying the demolition is "unacceptable."

"I enjoy living in such a large space," said Chen Xiafeng, a 60-year-old woman whose rooms are almost 4 meters high.

Lai Ying, a 101-year-old resident who has been living on the site for more than half a century, said he still remembered everything when he first moved in.

"I grew up in the garden when the factories hadn't been built," said Lai Huaqiang, Lai Ying's 60-year-old daughter.

"It was very beautiful and I will never forget it."


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