Our story begins in 1881 when it was discovered that the Hong Kong Ice Company did not have title to the property the Ice House was on. It was simply paying $1 per year in exchange for storing and providing ice to the public.
Ice House Battery Path on the left, Ice House Lane center going uphill
After some discussion inside Government, it was agreed that the lot would be leased, not to the Hong Kong Ice Company which was using the building, but to that fine upstanding fellow William Keswick, Legislative Counselor - and the last remaining trustee of the original "Ice Association". He got it for half the price of the minimum auction bid - and a 999 year lease. A very sweet, sweetheart deal - and all because the building was, and had been, used as an Ice House.
Plan contained as part of lease beginning 1883 for 999 years.
1904 Map showing Ice House and Murray Battery, and Battery Path
Fast forward 50 years.
in 1934, Hong Kong Land - who now owned the lease - asked for permission to redevelop the property.
Government refused, and instead tried to force HK Land to sell the property on threat of resumption because they claim it is needed for a "public purpose".
HK Land refused the offer. After all, they had a 999 year lease on the land and wanted to redevelop it.
HK Land forced the Goverment to court, and the land was resumed, but at a higher price than Government originally offered.
And why did Government do this ?
To quote from an internal Government Document dated 29 June 1934:
"If the Government scheme is to proceed [redeveloping Government Hill] the company [HK Land] cannot be allowed to rebuild on the present site, and, owing to its location and shape it would not be wise to re-adjust it to the proposed layout. The only option therefore is to acquire the property."
There was more to this Government "scheme".
At about this time, the HSBC Manager's and sub Manager's House (where the American Consulate is today) were returned to Government by HSBC in partial payment for half of the City Hall site.
The grand plan developed by Government was to sell off much of Government Hill, and move Government House up to Magazine Gap.
Here is the plan: