Birthday Buildings in 2019 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Birthday Buildings in 2019

This is the seventh year I've made these lists, and for the first time we have a building on the '175-year-old' list. Before we take a look at that, let's see how the lists for the other birthday years look.


50-year-old buildings:

The list of 50-year-olds is short this year, though I'm sure there are lots more buildings that were finished in 1969 and are still standing. One reason we don't see them listed on Gwulo is that we don't think of them as old. But in Hong Kong the typical lifespan for a building is only 40-60 years, so these are already our buildings' senior citizens!

The best known of the 50-year-olds is St George's Building. There's a glimpse of it on the left of these two photos.

View of HK from Kowloon
View of HK from Kowloon, by petespix75


Photos from HK 1976 - 1985
Photos from HK 1976 - 1985, by Born in HK


It stood out from the other buildings along the seafront because of its dark colour. It replaced this building, which was also called St George's Building:

Shewan & Tomes Head Office
Shewan & Tomes Head Office, by Admin


75-year-old buildings:

Government House is one of the few visible reminders of the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong in the 1940s. I've guessed 1944 as its completion year, though I haven't seen an exact date for when it was completed.

It was certainly finished by 1945, as shortly after liberation Barbara Anslow visited it, and recordered her impressions in her diary:

After dinner, Nan (Grady), Barbara B and I walked via CSO to Government House, which has been partly rebuilt, redecorated and furnished, massive armchairs and sofas. Really lovely, except for a strange tower on the top.

One part upstairs has been rebuilt as a Japanese residence: a little wooden springboard for taking off gitas and leaving them, then up to a wooden flooring which had some sort of soft material on as well,covered with straw matting; ceilings very low, room divided into partitions by sliding screens covered with traditional paper; small alcoves, a very low wooden table, and small cushioned stools.

Bathroom queer, the bath built-in, but wooden, with a little seat, like a boat.

There was also a little shrine; the floor was sandy and earthy and stony with big stones strewn here and there; a minute pool no bigger than the page of this book, and a kind of confessional and little temple, complete with roof. Mr. ((S.)) Marvin showed us round. ((Barbara B had a particular interest in Government House, as she had worked there for H.E. (Governor) pre-war))

1963 HK 13 Government House.jpg
1963 HK 13 Government House.jpg, by John + Judith Mackay


The Japanese were also busy building defences, in readiness for an Allied attack to recapture Hong Kong. The tunnel under the Sai Wan Redoubt is just one of many tunnels the Japanese built around Hong Kong.


100-year-old buildings

There's a good-sized list of 100-year-old buildings this year. The old French Mission Building is best known, as it is in a prominent position that makes it hard to miss.

1955 French Mission Building
1955 French Mission Building, by Eternal1966


It looks similar to the previous building at this site, though written records show that this is a new building that replaced the older one. If you have any photos of Central taken during 1916-1919, please could you see if they show the construction work underway here?

Then for a centenary building that's less well known, here's the Tung Wah Hospital's building at the southern end of Po Yan Street.

Old Tung Wah Hospital building
Old Tung Wah Hospital building, by Admin


Old Tung Wah Hospital building
Old Tung Wah Hospital building, by Admin


Old Tung Wah Hospital building
Old Tung Wah Hospital building, by Admin


125-year-old buildings

The Brennan Torpedo Station was built to enhance the coastal defences at Lei Yue Mun. The torpedo could reach speeds of up to 27 knots, and could be steered by the operator to hit an enemy ship trying to enter Hong Kong's harbour. You can visit the Brennan Torpedo Station, as it is now part of the Coastal Defence Museum. (To learn more about the Brennan Torpedo you can read these notes on its history, or watch an animation of it in action.)

You'll see there's also a street junction in the list. We don't have that many old buildings left, so any man-made structures are fair game.


150-year-old buildings

Sorry, we don't have any matching Places for this year.


175-year-old buildings

We don't have any buildings from 1869 for the 150-year-old list, but for the first time we have one on this list of 175-year-old buildings. Again, I'm stretching the definition to include man-made structures, but this is good to see.

c.1844 Boundary marker / Trig point
c.1844 Boundary marker / Trig point, by Admin


It isn't especially hidden away, but it was only re-discovered quite recently. A group of students and teachers from HKU found it in 2015 and recognised its significance. You can read more about their discovery in this press release and presentation.


Find out more

If you'd like to see what information and photos we have for any of the buildings shown above, just click on the blue building name in the list. You can also click on any photo to see a larger version you can zoom in to.

If you know of any birthday buildings that we're missing, please go ahead and make a Place page for them. They will automatically be added to the correct list. And of course if you can add any memories, facts or photos, they're always very welcome. Please click to leave a comment, or upload a photo.


Further reading


Public Works Report 1919:

The Repulse Bay Hotel, on R.B.L. 142, was completed and the erection of a residential wing in connection therewith was commenced.

A large building, situated on M.L. 183, at the junction of Des Voeux Road West and Hill Road, known as the Kam Ling Hotel, was completed.

A new Theatre, known as the Wo Ping Theatre, was erected on I.L. 1689, Des Voeux Road Central.

Police Recreation Club Pavilion.—This building occupies the site of the old Police Club Matshed at the north-west corner of Happy Valley.