Since the late 19th Century, the riverfront Bund has been Shanghai's most prestigious boulevard. In the 1880s, it was a popular residential neighbourhood for affluent foreign nationals. By 1900, rapid industrialization had transformed the Bund into a bustling commercial centre, where prominent businesses established their headquarters.
In 1916, The Union Building, located at No. 3, the Bund was erected in majestic Free Renaissance Style. It was the first steel-framed structure in Shanghai. The steel structure eliminated the need for internal structural walls. Tenants were able to select the layout of their offices. So in essence, No. 3, The Bund was China's first open-plan office building.
The Union Building was divided into three sections. The front section contained six stories; while in the rear there were servants' quarters and storage space for office tenants. The top floor, now occupied by the New Heights restaurant, once boasted residential apartments with a commanding view of the Bund.
The domed corner tower of the building, topped by a golden argosy? weather vane, stands 150 feet above the ground. The tower, called the Cupola, is home to Shanghai's most exclusive private dining venue.
The Union Insurance Society of Canton Limited occupied a sprawling office on the ground floor of the building that was Shanghai's largest open space at the time.
The Mercantile Bank of India moved into the building in June 1935, and bought it in July 1941 from the Union Insurance Society of Canton for 80,000 pounds.
In 2004, with the re-emergence of Shanghai as the cosmopolitan centre of China, renowned American architect Michael Graves and his team transformed the Union Building into Three on the Bund. Owned by Hong Kong's House of Three, Three on the Bund is the only wholly foreign-owned property on the Bund today.