1950s view over Sai Ying Pun | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

1950s view over Sai Ying Pun

c.1955 view over Sai Ying Pun

This week's photo looks out from the Peak, over the city and harbour towards Stonecutters Island. We can tell which part of the city this is from a couple of roads that run vertically up the photo. The one on the left is Centre Street and the one on the right is Eastern Street, so we're looking out over Sai Ying Pun.

Usually the tourists at the Peak focus their cameras on Central, so I'm always glad to find a photo of some other part of town. Fortunately I also have another photo with a similar view, but taken around 1900:


c.1900 View over Sai Ying Pun


If we compare the two photos, the most obvious change is in the shipping. The large sailboats in the 1900 photo have all gone by the 1950s, as have the many smaller sailing junks that were near the shore.

There are some big changes among the buildings too, but to see those we'll need to get closer:



These show the area around the northern end of Eastern Street (1900 view at the top and the 1950s view below). Connaught Road West runs along the seafront at the top, then the crossroads a little way inland marks the junction with Des Voeux Road West. The strip of land between those two roads was still very new in the 1900 photo, as it had only been reclaimed a few years earlier. It's interesting to see the different styles of building on either side of Eastern Street: three storeys to the right, but much smaller two-storey buildings on the left. I associate two-storey buildings with much earlier in the nineteenth century, so I wonder why they'd have built them on this new land, instead of building the larger three-storey buildings? Were they quicker to build and so quicker to start recovering the costs? And how long did they last? By the 1950s photo we can see that the two-storey buildings have all been replaced by newer four-storey buildings.

Moving a little further inland and uphill along Eastern Street, we come to a cluster of hospital buildings:



Here's how they are labeled on a 1901 map of the area [1]:

In the 1930s, the new Queen Mary Hospital had opened out at Pokfulam, so this area was no longer the center of government healthcare in Hong Kong. Despite its downgrade, in the 1950s the area continued to have a medical focus:

  • 2a - The building marked 1a is still standing, though unfortunately I don't have a detailed map to know its function.
  • 2c - This new building is the second generation of the Tsan Yuk Maternity Hospital, which relocated here from the original site over on Western Street. It is built on the site of the old buildings 1b & 1c, and was completed in 1955. (That's the date I'm using for this photo, but if you can identify any buildings that date the photo to later than 1955, please let me know in the comments below.)
  • 2e - The buildings at 1d and 1f have both been demolished to leave a large open area. Today the open area is the King George V park.
  • 2g - Something I hadn't noticed before is that the building in 1g was extended to the right / east at some point, roughly doubling its size. Its function had changed too, and in the 1950s it was used as a mental hospital for female patients.

Moving uphill again, we come to several of Sai Ying Pun's famous schools:



Building 1a housed the "Diocesan School" according to the 1901 map. Today we know it as the Diocesan Boys School, or DBS. They moved over to Kowloon in the 1920s, and at some time between then and the 1950s the site was re-developed and a much larger school, 2a, was built. It is still there today, and is known as the Bonham Road Primary Government School.

Uphill again, and at 1b there is a strip of open ground between Park Road and Lyttelton Road. That open area was part of the West End Park. The main building of the new St. Stephen's Girl's College was built on that site and opened in 1924. It is shown at 2b in the 1950s photo, and it's also still there today.

Another building that's worth a closer look is over in the bottom-right corner of the 1900 photo:



I've highlighted the three roads to help identify them:

  • red - High Street
  • green - Bonham Road
  • blue - Park Road

By the 1950s the open spaces have been covered with buildings, including one that is an odd jumble of towers and turrets:



Here's a clearer view of it, as seen from Bonham Road:

Euston, by aetse


It looks like something you'd find in Disneyland, but it was actually a private residence called Euston, one of several 'castles' that Eu Tong Sen had built in Hong Kong.

That's the edge of the 1900 photo, but the 1950s photo shows buildings even further up the hill, including this cluster around the junction of Conduit Road and Po Shan Road:

Conduit Road


The building at the bottom left has an unusual outline, with it's top-left corner a series of steps. That helps identify it, as the modern map shows the building is still standing, number 43A Conduit Road. The middle building, Haddon Court, is a more recent addition, but number 41B also appears in both the 1950s photo and today's map.

Map of buildings around Haddon Court


Today, the next building to the east / right is Realty Gardens. It was built on the site of The Fairview at 41A Conduit Road, and we just catch the edge of The Fairview site in the photo:



The terraces and pavilion were part of its gardens.

The Fairview had a couple of claims to fame in the 1950s. For most of that decade it was home to the Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC), and site of some memorable parties. It became well-known outside of Hong Kong too, not for the FCC, but when it was used as a location in the hit movie, Love is a Many Splendored Thing. It was used as a hospital in the film, and the pavilion made a few appearances - you can see it in these stills from the film at centre-right and bottom-right:

1955 Love is Many Splendored Thing - Hospital Scene


If you can spot any other points of interest in these photos, or add any memories & information about them, please let us know in the comments below.

Gwulo photo ID: A411


  1. Plan of Victoria, Hong Kong. [In 29 sheets.] Public Works Department, Hong Kong, 1901. 60 feet to 1 inch. Held at the UK National Archives, their reference: CO 700/HongKongandChina20

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There is more to see on the western side of the 1950's image. On the very left side is Centre Street as identified by David. West of it (if I see it correctly) are the West Point Godowns . I cropped a detail from the 1950 image:

Unfortunately, the 1950's image ends before Western Street becomes visible.

No problem with the 1900 one which extends further west (also cropped):

West Point Godowns are on the right, and the pier in the centre is China Merchants Pier.

During my 1980 visit to Hong Kong I also took a photo from the Peak in almost the same direction. Again, a detail cropped form it is shown below: