- Event Time
- Event Location
- No. 2, Section 1, Yanping North Road (Railway Department ParkTel), Datong Dist., Taipei City Taiwan, R.O.C
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The First European-Style Hotel in Taiwan
In 1908, the Taiwan Railway Hotel was completed just before the inauguration ceremony of the Trunk Line. It was the first and the only Western-style hotel in Taiwan, occupying the space across a three-lane boulevard (today’s Zhongxiao West Road), sitting opposite Taipei Main Station.
The hotel was managed by the Railway Department of the Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan. Such support from the government allowed it to maintain its daily routines without financial concerns and to host various events, whether they were profitable or not.
The hotel was where the Empire of Japan boasted its power, it was how many tourists would remember Taipei, and it was where the novelties of the new era were introduced to the public. The glories and shadows of the colonizer’s modern civilization are revealed through this one particular hotel.
Modern Facilities and Luxurious Decorations
The exterior of the Railway Hotel was designed by the architect Matsuzaki Munakasa. Its Mansard roof was commonly seen on government buildings during the expansion of the Japanese Empire.
The overall style of the hotel was European and modern, with a luxurious flair.
The ground floor featured a lobby, a bar, a billiard room and a 248 square-meter (75 Ping) dining room that could accommodate one thousand guests. The hotel also had the first passenger lift in Taiwan, Deluxe Rooms with built-in meeting spaces, and public bathrooms with squatting and sitting toilets for male and female use.
Rare Guests and Hotel as the First Witness
The hotel often accommodated celebrity guests, such as Prince Kan’in Kotohito, who came to Taiwan to host the inauguration of the Trunk Line, the world-renowned stunt flyer “Bird Boy Arthur R. Smith and “rare guests with azure-eyes”– tourists who could afford to take luxurious round-the-world cruises.
In 1908, the Lin Family from Banqiao held grand banquets with more than 300 people in the hotel. In 1930, opium investigators from the League of Nations met social activists led by Chiang Wei-shui and Lin Hsien-tang on the second floor of the Railway Hotel. Ambassadors and Taiwan’s Governor-General are also frequent guests.
The founding conference of many major associate were also often held here. The hotel also saw historical events such as the announcement of the “japonica” rice in 1926 and the completion party of Sun-Moon Lake electrical engineering in 1934.
French Cuisine and Cultural Events
The three eateries on the ground floor comprised of the hotel its main source of income. From the welcoming banquets for royals and ambassadors to gatherings of friends, about 500 banquets were held there annually. The meals were prepared in accordance Japanese banquets tradition, together with French cooking and a French menu.
The hotel organized regular concerts and garden parties, and distributed coupons to attract people from all backgrounds and to increase usage of its facilities. The hotel even served as a refuge during a severe flood in 1911. Moreover, visits from all corners of Taiwan would travel for events such as indoor sports games, the Antarctic Adventure Exhibition, and Yu Dafu’s talks.
The History Endures
The Taipei Air Raid in 1945 destroyed the hotel building, which forced it to resume its business elsewhere. The original location later became the site of today’s Shin Kong Life Tower. The Taiwan Railway Hotel may now only exist in memory, but the remnants of modernity shall endure in history.