Birthday Buildings in 2013 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Birthday Buildings in 2013

Do you recognise the building [1] in this email I received:

Dairy Farm Date
Hi All

Shot through taxi window... Does anybody know if there has been/will be a centenary 'celebration' of this building this year? If so, I've missed it.

PB [2]

It turns out that the '1913' marks the date of a renovation, not the date it was first built, but it got me thinking... which other buildings deserve a birthday card this year, and how far back can we go?

50 years old

This photo of the Mandarin Hotel was taken soon after it opened:

1964 Mandarin Hotel

40-60 years is the typical age when a Hong Kong building is demolished and re-developed, so will it be around much longer? 

Over on Lantau, the biggest and smallest 'buildings' on the list share a connection. The Shek Pik Reservoir was finished that year, and so was the South Lantau Road. The road runs across the reservoir wall, and brought road access to Tai O for the first time. Its route is marked by milestones, several of which are listed above.

75 years old

Here's Central Market, a few years later in the 1950s:

Central Market

The other buildings from 1938 have a more sinister tone: artillery batteries built to defend Hong Kong. War was in the air - Japanese airplanes were bombing Canton on a regular basis during 1937, and in 1938 their army invaded and occupied the city.

100 years old

Twenty-five years earlier, and another world war was about to begin. Thankfully, Hong Kong wouldn't face any fighting in that war, though there were plenty of other dangers to worry about:

The decision to build [a new police station in Cheung Chau] was taken after the murder of three Indian constables and the looting of the police station by a gang of pirates on 19 August 1912. [3]

125 years old

Have you seen this grand old building?

1900s Catholic Cathedral

Don't feel bad if you haven't. As this 1900s photo shows, it used to be easy to see it. It was one of Hong Kong's landmarks, visible from the harbour. 

But these days it is hidden away behind high-rise buildings. Now the only place you'll get a clear view of it is from Glenealy, on the slope between Robinson and Caine Roads. Worth a look.

150 years old

You can just make out the temple in the foreground of this engraving from 1873:

1873 Royal Naval Hospital

And here's the Watchman's Cottage, still keeping a careful eye on the reservoir at Pok Fu Lam:

View Larger Map

Not bad!

Given Hong Kong's reputation for having destroyed its historic buildings, I was pleasantly surprised to find at least one building for each of these significant birthdays.

What have we missed?

So far at we've documented over 2,300 places and buildings around Hong Kong. Each one has its own page, often with a few notes about the building, and copies of any photos we have that show the building. The building names in the lists above are links, so you can click on any of them to see that building's page.

But there are plenty more we haven't got round to yet. If there's a building you know of that should be on these lists, please go ahead and make a 'Place' page for it. Click here for instructions on how to create a Place page.

All the lists of buildings on this page are live, not fixed. eg Let's say you add a Place page for a building with a 1963 completion date. Then the next time you visit this page your building will automatically appear in the 50 years old list.

Regards, David


  1. It's the old Dairy Farm Building, at the top of Wyndham Street.
  2. Thanks to Peter Basmajian for sending the email that starts this thread.
  3. From the AMO report on the Cheung Chau Police Station.


Mandarin Hotel - The Chinnery

Thanks to the readers who've sent in these messages -

Martin writes:

I assume you have seen these maps of building ages across cities.  Not sure what one for HK would reveal.

I hadn't seen them before - very interesting. The maker of the Portland map wouldn't feel so bad that "Only 942 structures are left from the 1890s" if they saw an equivalent map of Hong Kong!

Brian Coak writes:

Year 1938 - See these October Japanese attack and bombing of Canton photos. The photos are as old me.

Japanese opposite Shameen Island, 1938

Canton Post Office fire, 1938

Sun Co. fire, Canton, 1938