c.1906 Hong Kong's landmark building?

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 21:13

What would you say was Hong Kong's landmark building in the early 1900s?

The Hong Kong Hotel or HSBC perhaps? How about something higher up - one of the cathedrals, the new university, or maybe Chater's Marble Hall?

For sticking out like a sore thumb, I'll suggest...

What: It's the chimney in the Naval Dockyard, today's Admiralty area. For fifty years it was plain to see in any photo of the area:

1930s

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 19:20
1930s Funeral procession passing cricket pitch

Photo courtesy of 'moddsey': "A picture postcard of a funeral procession proceeding westbound on Queen's Rd C from the 1930s. Note the former Hong Kong Cricket Club (now Chater Gardens) and the HMS Tamar Dockyard Buildings and Chimney in the background. At right of photo is a traffic island and policeman monitoring traffic at the junction of Queen's Rd C and Garden Rd. The angular turn up Garden Rd was further east than today's present alignment. ".

Date picture taken
1930s
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1930s

1930s Central air view

1941

1941: The Maritime Environment. Accomodation hulk HMS Tamar at the Hong Kong naval basin, which took her name. Photo NHSA.

1950s

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 20:04
1950s Cricket Club

received by email

Date picture taken
1950s
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Always remembered that the "cricket ground" was the Craigangower Cricket Club! Hope I am correct... Always thought it wonderful that the ground was slap bang in the centre of the business district. Where else in the world....?

 

Apart from the chimney, what else is there to see?

Most of the main photo shows an area of newly reclaimed, rough ground. Jurors Lists from around this time (eg 1904) list several employees of Punchard, Lowther & Co living at the "Naval Yard Extension". That's what we're looking at.

Then if you zoom in to the building at the left, you'll see its built from larger stones, where the new buildings on the right use smaller bricks. I believe the larger stones mark it as an older building, and the probable shoreline before this reclamation began.

While we're here, look just above and to the right of its roof. The big building in the distance is Chater's Marble Hall. It certainly had a commanding view out over the harbour.

Moving right,we pass a couple of temporary matshed buildings to come to the main attraction.

It's still in its bamboo cocoon, but it looks as though the chimney has recently been finished. Probably why it merited a photo. It's all alone right now, but later they'll build the dockyard's Electrical Generating Station in the open area in front of it. Then the chimney will be put to good use.

Across from the chimney is a building with three round windows, the Pumping Engine House. No doubt that was for the large dry dock, which is just out of sight to the right.

The last building, with the large, arched window, is the Boathouse. We can only see one half of it - there's another gable the same size to its right, then beyond that there's a slip running into the large Tidal Basin. That basin survived into the 1990s before it was filled in, and it is now the site of the new Tamar Government Buildings.

And a bit of trivia - look on the ground in front of the Boathouse and you'll see some curved triangular shapes. They are used to form shape of concrete drainage channels, and you'll see very similar shapes still used today.

When: I'm guessing 1906, as that's the date of several other photos in the collection. It also ties in with the time that the Naval Yard Extension was underway.

Where: The chimney stood roughly where today's Cotton Tree Drive meets Harcourt Rd.

Who: At first the area looks deserted, but zoom in to the base of the chimney, and you can see several teams of workers.

The first group are working on the large pile-driver, to the right of the chimney. In those days, piles were simply wooden tree trunks. I think we can see the next one lying flat in front of the pile driver. The piles are probably going to form the foundations of the Electrical Generating Station.

Right again, past the heap of sand there's another couple of workers tending what looks like a large boiler. I'm guessing it provided power to the pile driver - any other ideas?

And on the far right, no construction site is complete without a group of men standing around doing nothing!

Regards, David

PS

  • If anyone can confirm / correct the date the chimney was built / demolished, please let us know. Since it was considered tall when it was built, and demolishing a chimney is always a spectacle, I hoped it would be mentioned in the newspapers. I tried a search for 'chimney' for years 1900-1910 and 1955-63, but no luck.
  • The names of the buildings came from a map ref HG7, c.1924, viewable at the Survey & Mapping office in North Point.

Reference: BA037

Date picture taken
1906

Comments

Maybe. Comparing it to the building on the left, it looks as tall as a six or seven storey building. There weren't any buildings that tall in Hong Kong at the time, so no competition there.

I'm not sure about other chimneys though. The sugar refineries at Causeway Bay / East Point and Quarry Bay would have had tall chimneys too. I expect the other dockyards did as well.

Regards, David

Excerpts from White Ensign and Red Dragon

On 28 November 1957, it was announced that a sizable portion of the naval dockyard would be closed.

In 1959, the Hong Kong Govt paid the War Department $24 million for the former dockyard area but the area was not handed over until 1962.

Harcourt Road linking Connaught Road with Gloucester Road was subsequemtly built. The construction of Harcourt Road may have coincided with the demolition of the chimney in the early 1960s.

1960 Central