c.1925 Central Praya
This week's view is from an old postcard titled "Central Praya".
Where: We're looking west along the old seafront, or "Praya". It's today's Connaught Road. There's a patch of open land in the foreground on the left, part of Statue Square. That puts the photographer and his camera up on the balcony of the Hong Kong Club building.
The first building we see is Queen's Building . It's also the oldest building in the photo, completed in 1899:
If we walk on along Connaught Road we'll pass several buildings, then after crossing Pedder Street we'll reach this one:
It's the General Post Office , with the taller and newer P&O Building  just beyond it.
The next few buildings are anonymous-looking terraces, four storeys high. There's one with a clear sign though, the "Tokyo Hotel"  on the corner of Pottinger Street:
After that terrace is a taller building, the Central Fire Station :
When: The Central Fire Station opened in 1926, but here it still has the scaffolding up so it isn't finished yet. I'll guess the photo was taken in 1925.
I'll be in London later this week. On Saturday, 7th I'll give a talk to the Friends of the RASHKB, then on the following Monday I'll join the lunch Mike is arranging. If you're joining either (or both!), I'm looking forward to meeting you.
What: The harbour!
Today the city and the harbour are quite distinct. Apart from the ferry piers in front of the IFC, much of today's seafront is a recreational area, fenced off from the sea.
But in these old photos, the city and the harbour have a close, working relationship. First you notice there isn't any fence along the water's edge. Boats could tie up at the seawall, pop up a gangplank and start unloading. Sea trade was happening all along the north shore. There was passenger traffic too, whether a short trip across to Kowloon, a ferry to a port in China, or a ride out to a liner in the harbour then on to a foreign destination.
As we walk back, we'll take a look at what's happening along the busy waterfront, starting with this ship, moored alongside a pier:
The ship has distinctive funnel markings:
They're the markings of Osaka Shosen Kaisha, or O.S.K., a Japanese shipping line. They had their own pier , the one we can see in the photo. You might think it was almost in front of the Central Fire Station, but the photo is misleading. Instead the pier was further west, near the junction with Gilman Street.
Further along there's another ship at a pier:
The door in the side is open, so they're loading or unloading:
This pier  belonged to the Douglas Steamship Company, and was near to today's Douglas Street. I don't see any markings on the ship, but given the pier I assume the ship belonged to Douglas Steamship Co. Can anyone confirm?
Next along we come to Blake Pier  with its long roof:
It was different from the previous two, a public pier instead of one that belonged to a shipping company. If you were catching a small boat out to a liner in the harbour, there's a good chance you'd leave from here.
Now at this point I usually mention how the pier's roof still exists, and has been relocated to Stanley. But for the first time I've realised that's only partially true - literally!
I count twenty pillars along each side in the old photo, but only twelve in this view of the relocated roof in Stanley:
What happened to the other eight pillars?
Next we have the Star Ferry pier 
With its distinctive clock tower:
And the Meridian Star just arriving from TST:
Before we reach the last pier, we pass these small boats:
Old photos show several pairs of these curved poles along this section of the seafront, often with a small rowing boat suspended from them, like we see here. Can anyone tell us more about them? Were they owned by companies, or rented? And what were the little boats typically used for?
Just to the right we can see the bow of a larger boat, with the Japanese name "?????jima Maru". Would this launch have lived permanently in Hong Kong, or did it belong to a larger Japanese ship moored somewhere out in the harbour?
Finally we reach Queen's Pier :
I'd previously thought this was reserved for visiting bigwigs - royalty, governors, etc. But this photo suggests that when it wasn't needed for grand occasions, it was also available for public use. The first clue is the Kowloon Dock Ferry, down in the bottom-right corner of the photo:
Second there's a note on the back of the postcard:
Whoever bought it wrote:
The nearest pier is the one where we always land.
So it looks like launches to and from boats in the harbour used Queen's Pier as well as Blake Pier.
Who: There's a group of people around Queen's Pier:
Up in the top-left corner there is a sign board leaning against the Pier's wall. Unfortunately it isn't clear to read at this angle, but I can imagine it offering boat trips.
Further along the street are a couple of sailors who look to be walking towards Queen's Pier:
Can anyone identify their uniforms?
Further along again is the rickshaw rank:
Apart from the rickshaw pullers waiting for a customer, on the right is someone looking very energetic. It reminds me of Singing in the Rain!
We'll finish off in the bottom-left corner, with this dapper gentleman in his plus fours:
Perhaps he's heading to the Hong Kong Club? He's a bit early for lunch, as the Star Ferry's clock shows it is only 10:40am...
The same person who originally bought this postcard also bought the postcard of Pedder Street I've previously shown:
There I wrote he'd have landed at Blake Pier, but now we know he landed at Queen's Pier instead.
Also on Gwulo.com this week:
- Queen's Building: http://gwulo.com/queens-building
- General Post Office: http://gwulo.com/node/3034
- P&O Building: http://gwulo.com/node/17027
- Tokyo Hotel: http://gwulo.com/node/13757
- Central Fire Station: http://gwulo.com/node/3032
- Osaka Shosen Kaisha (O.S.K.) Wharf: http://gwulo.com/node/9216
- Douglas Steamship Co. Ltd. Wharf: http://gwulo.com/node/23338
- Blake Pier: http://gwulo.com/blake-pier-hong-kong
- Star Ferry Pier: http://gwulo.com/node/7017
- Queen's Pier: http://gwulo.com/node/5120