Mount Austin Hotel / Barracks with message to printer as the caption

Sat, 06/12/2021 - 14:14

Gwulo photo ID: A570

Although the postcard was printed by Sternberg in the 1900s, gw notes in the comments below that the original photo was taken in the 1890s.

Date picture taken


It has already been noted that the building in the foreground was the Mount Austin Hotel/Barracks. The Hotel opened on 1st June 1891 (1) and closed on 1st October 1897 (2) after being sold to the British Military for use as a Barracks. Two parts of the photo suggest that the building was still the Hotel when the photo was taken.

Firstly, Chamberlain Road, today called Stubbs Road, can be seen in the middle distance running from roughly the middle of the photo towards Jardines Corner at the two o'clock position. It's a bit blurred but one, possibly three, matsheds can be seen above the road, whilst light coloured patches below the road are fresh earth dumped on the hillside. This portion of Chamberlain Road was constructed from 1896 and "opened to traffic in the beginning of September 1897" (3). The quality of the photo isn't good enough to assess the progress of the roads' construction, but it does stretch all the way to Jardines Corner. Together with the presence of the matsheds and the fact that vegetation hadn't yet grown over the excavated earth, it suggests that the construction project was in its later stages or had just finished.

Secondly, the Hotel/Barracks building is seen in its extended format - the wing on the left of the main building and the separate annex in the bottom right of the photo were completed in April or May 1897 (4). Externally the building looks complete, but immediately in-front of the new wing another patch of bare earth lies on the hillside, probably excavated when the site of the new wing was flattened prior to construction. Its lack of vegetation again suggests that the construction project was either in its later stages or had just finished.

Considering both points together I'd say the photo was taken in late 1896 or early 1897, meaning that the building was still the Mount Austin Hotel at the time. This conclusion is partly corroborated by the printed caption, "Please take off Peak Hotel (should be Mount Austin Hotel), Hongkong and put on Military Barracks on the Peak, Hongkong", which David has already noted was probably an instruction to the printer who mistakenly believed that it was intended as a new caption. Taken at face value it implies that the photo had been used on an older postcard with a caption misidentifying the building as the Peak Hotel. Can anyone confirm that such a postcard existed?

The handwritten message on the card, "This is our barracks you will see until recently it as (sic) been known as Peak Hotel" was obviously written by a soldier living at the Barracks who was confused by the printed caption and forgot that the Peak Hotel was just down the hill at Victoria Gap. I don't know when the Barracks opened, but it was sometime in 1898 or later (5), so the handwritten caption must have been added later than that. David, please could you tell us what is on the back of this postcard?

1. China Mail, 1st June 1891.

2. China Mail, 31st December 1897.

3. 1897 PWD Report, Para.40.

4. China Mail, 29 May 1897.

5. Same as 2.

Re: Instruction to printer to"Please take off Peak Hotel (should be Mount Austin Hotel), Hongkong and put on Military Barracks on the Peak, Hongkong" and  Can anyone confirm that such a postcard existed?

Looked on eBay. The original postcard with the same scene (but with a little more of Haystack at bottom left) had a photo caption: "Hongkong. View of Peak Hotel taken from the Peak." Postcard by M. Sternberg.


Thanks Moddsey,

The ebay page you linked above also shows another postcard inaccurately captioned "Hongkong, Peak Hotel". Actually it shows Meirion and Bahar Lodge on the Peak. The publishers of these old postcards were obviously not over concerned with the accuracy of the captions on their postcards.


Thanks to Moddsey for finding the version of the card with the original caption.

gw, here's the back of the card:

Back of postcard A570
Back of postcard A570, by Admin

I've set the date back from 1905 to 1890s. I'm not sure of the exact year yet - that patch of rough ground in front of the new wing is also shown in this photo dated to 1899:  

15 Picturesque HK Mount Austin Barracks-The Peak Hong Kong
15 Picturesque HK Mount Austin Barracks-The Peak Hong Kong, by Herostratus

Hi David,

Thanks for posting the back of your postcard. I was hoping it would be dated, but unfortunately not.

I must apologize for not having viewed your comments at whilst attempting to date your postcard photo. If I had, I would have known that your comment thereat re Barker Road also applied to, and helps date, your postcard photo. To summarize your argument; Barker Road would be visible if it existed but is not seen, its construction started in October 1897, therefore the photo was taken before then. In your postcard pic, Plantation Road Peak Tram Station is just above the left corner of Mount Austin Hotel. Plantation Road is clearly seen, as would be Barker Road if it had been built.

Thanks also for posting the enlargement of the upper portion of your postcard photo. Farm Lot 63, the "Admiralty Bungalows" site is shown. Nailing down its chronological development would assist in dating this and other photos, but is difficult. From the newspaper article at we know that the foundation stone of Commodore's Bungalow was laid on 26th January 1897, by which time it was probably nearing completion. Later photos show it had two pitched roofs and oblong, dark, shuttered windows facing west - a bit different to the building on the Commodore's Bungalow site in your postcard photo. That building could have been either Commodore's Bungalow under construction or its predecessor. The 1889 map ( ) and key ( ) shows two buildings on FL 63, namely "Admiralty Bungalow" and "The Hut", but is not sufficiently detailed to tell us which, if either, sat on the site where Commodore's Bungalow was later built.

Re the photo in your recent post, entitled "15 Picturesque HK Mount Austin Barracks", showing the patch of bare earth next to the new wing. The earth would not have remained bare for long. As in your postcard pic, matsheds and patches of bare earth around Chamberlain Road are seen, but unfortunately Barker and Plantation Roads are out of view. The building on the site of Commodore's Bungalow looks more like the one in your postcard photo than later photos of Commodore's Bungalow. Considered altogether, I reckon it was taken at around the same time as your postcard photo.