Wan Chai Environmental Resource Centre / Wan Chai Post Office [1913- ] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Wan Chai Environmental Resource Centre / Wan Chai Post Office [1913- ]

Current condition: 
In use
Date Place completed: 
c.1913-01-01 (Month, Day are approximate)

Notes from http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/english/envir_education/envir_resourcectr/reso...

The building of Wan Chai Environmental Resource Centre was constructed in 1913. It was used as the Wan Chai Post Office from 1915 to 1992 and was declared as a historical building in 1990. It was renovated and became the first Environmental Resource Centre of the Environmental Protection Department in 1993. It is one element of the government's effort in building up an environmentally aware and well-informed community in Hong Kong - an essential first step in developing an improved environmental ethic within the community.

Photos that show this place



The Vol 14 (1974) of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society contains the following entry on Pg. 208:

"The Urban Services Office, where we are having tea, and the Wanchai Post Office next to it, are located on a lot which was sold to the first American resident of Hong Kong, Charles V. Gillespie.  Here in the spring of 1842, he built a substantial brick house of siz room surrounded by a verandah at a cost of about $2,800.  It was called "Jorrock's Hall" (sic) and was located on Inland Lot 14.  The adjoining Lot 15 was also owned by Gillespie.  He sold it to Dr. Peter Young of the Hong Kong Dispensary, but Dr. Young was prevented from building on it by the Governor's Notification of 10 April 1843, that no further building was to continue until after the signing of a Treaty determing the future of Hong Kong as a British possession.  Both of the lots were later resumed by Government and a Police Station was on the site."

The Police Station mentioned above is none other than the No. 3 Police Station.  There were also some confusion generated by certain webpages on the intenet that the Old Wan Chai Post Office was originally designed to serve as a public toilet.  To clear up the confusion, there was indeed a public toilet on the lot as noted in "The Hongkong Government Gazette, 31st March, 1904" (pg.605):

"53.  Public Latrines and Urinals - A latrine adjoining No. 3 Police Station Queen's Road East and containing 38 seats, begun in 1902, was completed . . . . "

But it also means that the latrine on the site pre-dates the established date of construction of the Old Wan Chai Post Office which was 1913.   So looking at the "Report of the Director of Public Works for the Year 1913" (pg. 43):

"94.  Sanitary Inspectors' Office, & c., - Wantsai District. - This building, which was fully described in last year's Report, was complete in May, all liabilites being discharged before the close of the year.

It occupies a site at the junction of Wanchai Gap Raod and Queen's Road East where formerly No. 3 Police Station stood.  No. 3 Police Station was dispensed with in 1903,  the buildings, which were old and unsound, being subsequently pulled down."  

So looking back at "Report of the Director of Public Works for the Year 1912" (pg. 40):

"82.  Sanitary Inspectors' Office, etc., - Wantsai District. - The buildings were roofed in and wre othehrwise well advanced at the close of the year, but, owing to dilatoriness on the part of the Contractor, a good deal of internal finishing remained to be done.  The buildlings are of Canton red brick pointed in cement, the roofs being of double pan and roll tiling.  

The main building, which is partly one-storied and partly three-storied, contains 2 cart sheds, each 30' x 25', an office 30' 9" x 17' 0", a dressing room 9' 0" x 8' 0", lavatory 7' 0" x 8' 0", store 17' 7" x 8' 0", 2 rooms for non-Chinese foremen, each 15' 0" X 12' 9", a room for Chinese foremen, 12' 3" x 9' 0" , besides kitchens, bathroom, etc. Verandahs, 8 feet wide, extend along the north front of the three-storied portion and access to the upper floors is provided by a granite staircase. The Coolie Quarters, which are one-storied, contain 2 rooms for coolies, each 25 '0" x 12' 0" and a kitchen, bathroom and latrine, each 12' 0' x 8' 0". 

It should be noted that dimensions of the Coolie Quarters are nearly identical to the L-shaped Old Wanchai Post Office Building in which the shorter wing of the same dimension still serves as a toilet / storeroom.

And finally and entry from "The Hongkong Government Gazette, March 19, 1915" states:

No.129 -  It is hereby notified that a District Post Office known as the "Wantsai Branch Post Office" has been established in Queen's Road East, adjoining the premises of the Sanitary Department.  

It is most likely the the Chinese Coolie Quarters were no longer required by the Sanitary Department and was relinquished for use as a post office.  

Though I cannot find an account in the 1914 report from the Director of Public Works which mentions the conversion of the aboves quarters for use as a district branch post office, there was also no mention of any new post offices buildings in Wan Chai either.  It should also be noted however that the report mentioned that the Foreman's quarters of the Sanitary Depot in the Western District was converted for use as a branch post office (pg. 66) and the Old Harbour Office (pg.64) which was modified to:

"Providing stabling accomodations for the Sanitary Department and fitting up a Branch Post Office on ground floor."

This seems to indicate there was a government initiative to expand postal services to the various districts by retrofiting old / under-used government facilites.  

It is therefore most likely that the Old Wanchai Post Office, was completed in May 1913 as a coolies' quarters for the Sanitary Department and was subsequently converted to a District Post Office in March 1915.  Hope this clears up some of the confusion.

Thanks for providing the thorough background on this site.

Mr Gillespies's connection is shown on the 1845 map above, where "Gillespies Godown" is seen across Queen's Road to the north-east.

Regards, David

In the centre of the photo as the road bends, Wanchai Post Office can be seen in the distance with its distinctive granite base.

1910s Wanchai Market (1st Generation)
1910s Wanchai Market (1st Generation), by moddsey