The buildings, two French style three-storey buildings at No. 1400 Nanjing Xi Road, were originally dwelling house of Guo Le, boss of former Shanghai Wing On (Yong An) Company, and his younger bother, Guo Shun. It now serves as the Foreign Affairs Office of People's Government of Shanghai Municipality.
Guo Le, a native of Xiangshan (present-day Zhongshan), Guangdong, went to Australia following his brother in 1890 when he was only sixteen years old. He opened a Wing OnFruit Store together with some other people after seven years in Australia and then he invited successively his brothers, Guo Quan, Guo Kiu, Guo Hao and Guo Shun to go to Australia from his hometown to do the business. When the business of his fruit store developed to a certain scale he tried to enlarge his business to department store. So Wing On Company was opened in Queen Av in 1907 with Guo Quan as the boss.
Two years later Guan Quan and Guo Kui came to Shanghai to look for a place to open a store. At that time Sincere(Xianshi) Company of Hong Kong had already chosen Nanjing Road to build Huangqiu Department Store (present-day building of Fashion Compay). The Guo brothers decided to build their company opposite the Huangqiu Department Store because they realized that only commercial scale effect was formed in the "far-east No. one street" could they benefit the best result.
The Guo brothers selected Hardoon real estate and signed a land rental contract with Hardoon real estate by Guo Quan, a representative of Wing On Company with the ownership of the building belonged to Hardoon to 1946. Then Wing On Company began to build the building in 1916 and the store opened in September 1918 with Guo Biao as the supervisor and Guo Le as the general superintendent stationing in Shanghai. The business of the company was thriving and just then the Guo family built a 19-storey building New Wing On Building, in 1937 by taking preventing measures. And two closed overbridges were built in the fourth floor connecting it with the Wing On Company and Qichongtian Restaurant was also built in the seventh floor. When the lease expired in December 1946 Hardoon had died for many years and his property was inherited by his foster son, Gorge Hardoon who decided to sell the property right of the building So Guo Quan bought the building.
As early as 1910 Hardoon had built the famous private garden-Aili Yuan Garden in Shanghai and another eight mu of land in the north of Jing An Temple and east of Hardoon Road (present-day Tongren Road), known as Xiajiazhai at that time, also sold to Guo Le. So Guo Le and Guo Shun built their residential house there, known as Brother Buildings.
"Brother Buildings" was designed by Wilson from Palmer & Turner with an architecture style of French Renaissance. According to Xue Shunsheng, a specialist of architecture history, the two gardenlike buildings were built one in the west and one in the east, each with a building area of 1,232 square meters. At that time there was a custom in Shanghai that elder brother should be living in the east building while the younger in the west building. So Guo Le, the elder brother, lived in the east building and Guo Shun, the younger brother in the west.
Though the two buildings were built in Western style but they were also of Chinese characteristics with a wing room on both sides of the three rooms and a chimney sticking out of the house. In the middle of the building there was a arch-shaped porch and balconies. The parapet of wall on the top was exquisitely made in an ancient bottle-like shape forming an integral whole with the arch-shaped porch and balconies. The delicately decorated flat-roofed house became a fashion from then on.
The big garden in front of the main building was worth mentioning. With an area of 1,701 square meters the garden was covered with flowers, grasses and green trees dotted with caves, bridges, pavilions and rockeries with winding paths leading to secluded sports. A pagoda-shaped fountain and the green boscage set each other off and the pool was make of marble with a god of Greece in the Middle of it looking unique.
Guo Le died of illness in October 1956 in the United States and Guo Shun lived in Hong Kong in his late years but he was eulogized for his enhusiasm for the construction of Zhongshan City by people from his hometown.