Hong Kong Shop Houses | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Hong Kong Shop Houses

I find these building fascinating - harking back to an era that is sadly no more (as per usual with somewhere as 'dynamic' as HK). I get quite excited whenever I see one, sometimes on main thoroughfares, sometimes tucked away in the maze of streets that litter the territory. Perhaps it is their relative scarcity adds to their allure? Either way I have decided to try and document as many of them as possible and, at the inspired suggestion of MrB, to do this on Batgung

I have a few in mind that I have already added as places, and a few more I intend to revisit over the coming weeks (e.g The Pawn and some more on De Voeux Rd) so I can pinpoint their exact location and document them here.

However, I am a relative newby to HK (2+ years) and, furthermore, a Tai Po soul, so not really as familiar with Kowloon and HK Island as I know many of you are. So, please feel free to comment with some suggestions or, even better, add them as places yourself so we can get a consolidated map in order. If you do add one, please attach a Shop Houses tag.

EDIT: According to a local news report (19/09/2008), regarding the renovation of the row of shop houses (described as 1930's pre-war housing) on Prince Edward Rd West, there are only 73 examples of Shop Houses still standing in HK. So let's see if we can get photos of all of them.

Forum: 

T, you're a star. I will make an effort to gets some photos over the next couple of weeks now that I have been given the "Adding Photos to Batgung.com - for Dummies" quick walkthrough.

Incidentally, further to the TV news report on Shop houses in Shanghai Street and Prince Edward Rd, there was an article in Saturdays SCMP outlining the plans.Not sure I entirely agree with them but it's better than the usual HK plan (and we all know what that is).

Is it my imagination, or do an unusually large number of the remaining shop houses hold pawn shops? And if yes, does anyone know why?

Hi there,

My observation is that these old Pawn Shops usually own the whole block, which means the owner must have been quite wealthy.  These Pawn Shop blocks also act a a stronghold for storing valuable items.  But hey, if one doesn't have quite a lot of cash on hand, or a continuous flow of cash on his or her disposal, how could one start a Pawn Shop business afterall?

Best Regards,

T

I suspect that the pawn shops are just well established. It wouldn't surprise me to find that they have been in the same location for a long time (i.e. since shophouses were a bit more common) and as a result have managed to help protect the buildings from redevelopment.

I had a message from Barrie as follows:

"Like yourself, i have been interested in the shophouses and have begun photographing them.  Near my school are several shop houses as i wander around in my lunch break.  there are plenty if you go up Lai Chi Kok Rd to the Sham Shui Po area eg in Nam Cheong st just off Lai Chi Kok rd, in Yen Chow St opp the Golden Computer Centre and many more in the  area - as well as a few behind the Prince Edward MTR to the west (heading to Sham Shui Po)"

I recommended to Barrie that he come to this site and start helping us documenting, especially with decent photos. Let's hope he has a look in and helps us out.

In the meantime perhaps T can clear up if these (mentioned above) have already been tagged.

Cheers

Phil 

Hi there,

I have already marked a few of those on the map two days ago.  All are welcomed to add comments and/or photos.

Best Regards,

T

PhilK & T, another idea for you. Is it worth agreeing on tags to show if it's a complete building, or just some evidence like an old wall or pillar? eg

Shop Houses, complete

Shop Houses, partial

Then I can make a new page for you that lists all the complete shop houses, ie a table list, instead of the current view that shows them on a map.  It will help you track progress towards finding the 73 that the government know of.  (And I won't be very surprised if you find there are more than 73!)

MrB

I'll go back and complete my, err, three entries. T might have his work a bit more cut out for him :).

Cheers

 Phil

Here you go, lists of places tagged:

You'll see you can type in any tags in the search box at the top of the page. So you can make lists of any type of place you create, just by typing in their tags.

MrB

Reader IDJ has sent in this photo:

1960s Connaught Rd C Shop Houses

He writes:

I took this in the late 1960s from the Rumsey Street car park. The road is Connaught Road Central and the Wing On department store was out of shot to the left. On the roof levels of these buildings can be seen the squatter huts and illegal extensions that were common on top of most buildings of this type in that period. A transition can be seen in the buildings in the image whereby the deep set first floor balconies either still remain areas for hanging out washing/sitting out and others glassed in for more living or working spaces. Some have started to have air conditioners fitted. Many were used as small factories.

When they were common these overhung buildings were useful when it rained, but were slow for pedestrians to negotiate as the pillars were obstructions as were the inevitable goods cascading onto the pavements from the shop fronts. But they were much slower times all round though.

I’ve always been wary of these buildings where the pavement pillars have been removed as I don’t suppose the owners or residents have bothered to have structural surveys done to determine whether the unsupported overhung floors remain structurally safe. There have been several collapses of overhead canopies onto pavements over the years.

My late mother-in-laws flat in an old block in the back streets of Causeway Bay has been completely revamped in recent years to become a shop with large areas of the external walls knock out to make picture windows for display purposes despite being on the first floor.

Great photo! The buildings are showing their age - none of the floors seem horizontal, nor the pillars vertical.

There's a marker in Tsuen Wan on the map, but nothing further north than that. Did any of the towns in the NT have any - do any still remain?

I was thinking of Yuen Long in particular. It was a market town before the war, so would likely have had some.

MrB

PS Found this post giving more history about shophouses, especially in Singapore & Malaysia.

My old Tai Po photo shows them, and there are afew older low-rise buildings could have been in the past, but as for pillar'd front facades - I haven't found any in Tai Po (yet).

I don't know Yuen Long well enough but I guess there is as much chance there as anywhere else. Especially as Yuen Long and surrounds hasn't modernised quite as quickly as Tai Po. It wouldn't sdurpise me if there were some in Fanling or Sheung Shui, both have some fairly old streets.

 Great link BTW. 

In yesterday's talk, Carrie Lam gave preservation of shophouses as an example of preserving heritage. I found a couple of mentions on the government website:

  • March 31 2008: 48 shophouses to be preserved, with details of how they will be handled according to their grading.
  • September 19 2008: Details of a group of 20 shophouses to be preserved, one set on Shanghai Street, and one set on Prince Edward Road West.

This is good news, and they are going to save many more than I expected (yes, I've only been here 3 years and I am already that jaded).

However, they mention 56 'others' of no historical/preservational value. This means they have identified 104 properties altogether? Is there a document that contains all their locations?

Did Thomas manage to get all of these in the Batgung shophouse hunt?

Would be interesting to know of any we missed.

Hi there,

I spotted a few more in the past few months somewhere between Shamshuipo and Mongkok.  I will try to post their photos soon.   Pity, those two on Argyle Street are already gone.

Best Regards,

T

the recent assessment of 1444 old buildings by the heritage experts for the Antiquities Board has information/grading on all the old shophouses, including some to be demolished.

http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/Museum/Monument/en/aab.php

clicking on the brief assessments on grade 1,2 and 3 buildings opens up detailed descriptions and history of each building. Searching for tong lau or shop house will limit scrolling through 500 buildings at a time

 

There were quite a few old shophouses in Yuen Long the last time I was there, right along the main street, as it's a long-established market town.

Hi there,

In the New Territories, there are still many older houses, such as those walled villages, which are usually hundreds of year old.

Best Regards,

T

Pete

Any recent pictures and do you know the exact locations? If you do then they can be added as a 'place' and given the 'Shop House' tag to make them appear on the google map above.

Phil

Last week I ended up in Yuen Long after a hike, and had a chance to check out Pete's recommendation.

I found a couple of groups along Casle Peak Road (the main road that the LRT runs along). This group on the North side:

Yuen Long shophouse

and this on the South:

Yuen Long shophouse

One thing a bit different is that they only extend out over half the pavement, unlike the shop houses in Kowloon or HK Island that usually cover the whole pavement.

Yuen Long shophouse

Any ideas what caused the difference? Were pavements in the New Territories narrower?

The area to the North of Castle Peak Road is the older side, and there are some other relatively old buildings there, like these along Sau Fu Street:

23 Sau Fu Street

I didn't spot any more in the shop house style, but there were several more  that were old enough to have chimneys. Worth a longer wander around on a cooler day!

Hi there,

I guess pavements were likely narrower in the New Territories back then.  The existing pavement seen in the photos might be extended slightly more than two decades, when the light rail was built.

Best Regards,

T

T, I thought some more, and the explanation seems a bit odd, given the width of the roadway.

Today it is wide enough for a wider pavement, road traffic, and the platforms and rails of the LRT. If these shophouses were built in the 1930s-50s, I wonder why the road was made so wide then? There wouldn't have been much traffic along it in those days. Then given a wide road with little traffic, it would have made sense to have wide pavements.

I'll check with a friend whose family is from Yuen Long. Maybe they can remember.

Hi there,

I could not recall anything from before the Light Rail system was built.  But Castle Peak Road run along the middle, cuttong the new and old town of Yuen Long was a fact.

However I have a theory.  It might have been more or less having the same system as the Gloucester Road in Wanchai.  The original Gloucester used to run along the water front and is now being devided by a fence between the now Gloucester mains........

My 2 cents,

T

Hi there,

I bumped into two sets of then and now photos of Yuen Long Main Road (Castle Peak Road Yuen Long Section) and I guess the theory I brought up last time is flawed.

The two older photos clearly showed part of the pavements were indeed quite wide.

Best Regards,

T

 

Readers may be interested to see an article by Christopher Dewolf in today's 'China Daily' that Thomas and myself were interviewed for.

Chris has put it up on his Urban Photo blog:

http://www.urbanphoto.net/blog/2010/10/05/hong-kongs-disappearing-shopho...

That's great news. And China Daily too - any autograph requests from our Golden Week visitors yet?!

Cheers, David

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