Rose Hill [1849-????] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Rose Hill [1849-????]

Current condition: 
Demolished / No longer exists
Date Place completed: 

"Rose Hill", Victoria - was named in a 1849 "Allen's Indian Mail".


By 1862 it was owned by Warren Delano of the American firm Russell & Co,   grandfather of US President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

"October 31, 1862, on arriving in Hong Kong with their seven children Catherine, Warren's wife, wrote: "By eleven o'clk dear Warren was on board the 'Surprise', having come in the house-boat [the Russell & Co. boat]. ... such a cavalcade of [sedan] chairs as waited on us up to Rose Hill [the home the Delanos would occupy in Hong Kong] was very strange. I feel very oddly to be again a 'Fanqui.'" 

Writing in 1931, FDR's elderly mother carried the Delano story onward from ship to shore, noting that everyone was "soon settled most comfortably at 'Rose Hill,' a fine house above the town, with the peak rising behind it."

read more

Warren's daughter, Dora Delano, married a junior partner of Russell & Co, and she continued to live at Rose Hill until about 1900.

Photos that show this place


I have not found any photos of Rose Hill online, but I understand there are some in a library in the US.  If know where they are, please post a reply.  Thank you.

Annie Oakes Huntington spent about 5 years in Hong Kong, from age 10-15.

Testament of happiness: letters  edited by Nancy Byrd Turner

"She was very young when her father, in the employ of the American China merchants, Russell and Company, took his family to the Orient. From the Hong Kong letters it is plain that the little creature, though homesick for her own land, had adapted herself very well to foreign soil, and with her eyes wide open, as always. The family returned to America when she was fifteen, "

"Hong Kong,
July 11th, 1885.

The bay of Hong Kong is very pretty with mountains all round the bay. We live about half up the peak so we get a lovely view. We live on Robinson Road,"

"... Italian Convent for lessons just where I used to go for music, and she lived at the lower end of the same road in Hong Kong, where we lived at "Rose Hill"

This is in response to an email to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library regarding photos of "Rose Hill," the Delano home in Hong Kong.

We have located eight photos of Rose Hill in our photograph collection.  These photographs include both interior and exterior shots.  If you would like, we can mail you photocopies of these photos so that you can decide if you'd like to purchase prints or digital scans of any of them.  If you would prefer to wait until you come to the Library to see them in person, that can also be easily arranged.  They are located in the "China" folder of our general photograph collection.

For your information, we can make prints of the photographs at the following prices:  4X5 Glossy ($15.50), 5X7 Glossy ($16.50), 8X10 Glossy ($17.50).  Larger size glossy photos and matte photos can also be made at additional cost.  Since we send our photo work to an outside lab, turn around time is usually 2-3 weeks.  Rush orders cost an additional 50% with a turn around time of 2-3 days.  We also provide a scanning service at a cost of $26.00 per image.  Images are scanned as 600 dpi JPEGs or TIFFs and are placed on a CD which is then mailed to you.  We cannot e-mail scanned images.

We hope you find this information helpful.  Please let us know if you would like to be sent photocopies of the Rose Hill photographs, or if there is anything else we can do to be of further assistance.


Matthew C. Hanson
Archives Technician
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library
4079 Albany Post Road   Hyde Park, NY 12538
Phone: (845) 486-7760    Fax: (845) 486-1147

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museums
website contains more that 13,000 digitized archival documents,
photographs, finding aids, educational resources, upcoming events
and visitor information.

The Delano family name was orginally De La Noye, they are descended from a very early American migrant family from what is now Belgium. 

There is another interesting but little known Hong Kong connection. The China clipper business in which the Delanos and others were involved employed many black seaman. Some of these ships were sometimes laid up for months or even years, at a time in Tolo Channel awaiting work, a fact which, some say, accounts for the distinctive Afro-Chinese appearance of some members of one of the local village clans.  

Passenger arrival records for Providence RI, Boston, etc. indicate that American "China merchants" often brought young Chinese (mostly male, but sometimes female) back on the journey with them from South China. (Excluding the Chinese who discovered America much earlier) these would have been the first Chinese in the United States. Census records indicate intermarriage between these early Chinese arrival and Free People of Color in New England port cities.

It seems that the Delano family of FDR's line were New England ship captains, including whalers and packet-boat captains.  The line is Phillipe De La Noye to Jonathan Delano (b. 1647) to Thomas (b. 1704) to Ephraim (b. 1733) to Warren I (b. 1779) to Warren 2 (b. 1809) to Sara (b. 1854).

I see (Baltimore Weekly 6 Aug 1807) that a captain Delano of the PERSERVERANCE arrived Boston from Canton and Batavia. Warren Delano II, Sara's father, originally went to Canton-Macao in the early 1830s. By that time he, his brother Edward, and various in-laws and associates were familiar with the workings of opium buying in Turkey. The brothers Delano were in Canton during the Opium War, and Warren was vice consul. Warren was  soon after back in the US investing his fortune in railroads, etc. but reportedly lost most of his wealth in the Panic of 1857. He went back to China, setting up shop in Hong Kong. He was there a year or two before chartering the yacht SURPRISE to pick them up in NYC and take them to Hong Kong; they left NYC late June 1862. The quotations above from Mrs. Delano would be them arriving from NYC that year

I  recently passed along to the Roosevelt Library the information below on Sara Delano's (re)visit to HK in 1877. She and a brother and sister had left in 1864-65, staying in Europe for school. On this 1877 visit, she arrived Feb 22 on the SS ANADYR She was traveling with her sister Dora and brother in law William H Forbes

The vessel docked late afternoon, then left a few days later for a loop up to Shanghai. Feb 22nd was/is George Washington's birthday, and although the group was too late for the noon-time salute from the US corvette ASHUELOT, most of the ships in the harbour were festooned with bunting in honor of the occasion.

Feb 22 was also Day One of the Annual Races, which went in 1877 from Weds through to Monday Feb 27; events on that last day included the "Native Scramble," which Sara Delano wrote about in a letter home.

Her visit also coincided with the departure of Sir Arthur Kennedy for his new posting in Australia. There were gala get togethers and then the grand send-off on March 1. Lady Kennedy had died in England a few years earlier (Oct 1874)

Sara Delano departed on the ANADYR when it came back down from Shanghai, passengers included Russell-associated friends and family (POMEROY, HITCH, RUSSELL). She returned to the US via Marsailles and Liverpool

It seems that Rose Hill was located in back of and above Victoria Gaol, i.e. the Central Prison Compound, on Caine Road above the prison where it backs up into the corner of Old Bailey Street and Chancery Lane. This was the area of Caine Road where the CJ Supreme Court; Colonial Surgeon, et al. lived in the 1860s-1880s.  In this 1930 photo at the HKPL the prison is to the left, look for the three symmetrical buildings horizontally lined up. This earlier photo c 1875 is of the same area, with Victoria Gaol in its earlier Pentonville radial configuration

Italian Convent Extension. The Mother Superior of the Italian Convent wishes to gratefully acknowledge the following sums of money received in answers to letters sent out asking for help to pay off the remaining debt on the ‘Rosehill’ extension to the Italian Convent and for other necessaries for the winter season…” China Mail 3 Jan 1901: 2. 

Russell & Co. Assign. NYT, 10 Jun 1891: Russell & Co., the China merchants at 60 Wall Street, made an assignment assigned yesterday to Henry Hannah, being unable to meet their liabilities in full. The deed, which is signed by John Murray Forbes, the New-York partner, on behalf of the firm, says the firm is composed of William Howell Forbes of Hongkong, John Murray Forbes of Morristown, N.J.; Samuel Wyllys Pomeroy of London, Charles Vincent Smith of Shanghai, and Charles Alexander Tomes of Hong Kong. Preferences are given for $18,401, as follows: Gisborne & Co., Calcutta, $15,000; New-York Marine Underwriters, $2,443; Indemnity Mutual marine Assurance Company, $564; London Assurance Corporation, $394. At the office of Evarts, Choate & Beaman, the firm's attorneys, it was said that the affairs of Russell & Co. were still in such a condition that no definite idea of the assets and liabilities could be given. Most of the claims against the firm are held in China, merchants of that country being credited with about 85 percent of them. So far as is known here, the firm has good chance of resuming business. The assignee, Mr. Hannah, has been manager of the New-York office. 

Failure of Russell and Co NYT 5 Jun 1891: Failure of Russell and Co of interest to Boston mostly as matter of history. William Perkins of Boston started it; represented short time by Captain Russell; head for many years was John M Forbes, now Chairman of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy board; Edward Cunningham, who was shot last year on his estate in Milton; Henry S Grew of Boston. DO Clark, J Murray Forbes, Capt RB Forbes all of Milton, once connected, along with WS Fitz Boston; HH Warden Duxbury; Warren Delano Fair Haven.  WH Forbes now in HK; HD Forbes no active connection for some years. Boston house of JM Forbes and Russell & CO NOT connected 

Supreme Court, Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and Others versus JM Forbes and Others, ex parte application for a rule on defendants to show why a receiver and manager should not be appointed. Certain lots in Victoria: inland lots Nos 83, 118, 120, 121; marine lots 202, 203. Defendant John Murray Forbes one of the partners of Messrs Russell and Co, and registered owner of these lots. In old title, he was the trustee for Russell and Co partners, but new Crown leases afterwards issued in his own name. There were judgments against the properties, even then being offered for sale (China Mail 20 Aug 1891)

Notice to Let. The Premises No 9 Praya Central, lately occupied by Messrs Russell and Co., The Whole by flats or single rooms suitable for Offices and Dwelling. Apply to ED Sassoon and Co 

In the Supreme Court of Hongkong. NOTICE—William Howell Forbes, lately trading with others under the Style or Firm of Russell and Company, at No. 9 Praya Central, Victoria, Hongkong and elsewhere, MERCHANT, having been adjudged BANKRUPT under a creditor’s Petition for adjudication in Bankruptcy, filed in the Supreme Court of Hongkong on the 20th day of July, 1891, a Public Sitting for the said Bankrupt to pass his last Examination and make application for his order of Discharge will be held before Honorable Sir James Russell, Knight, CMG, Chief Justice of said  Court, on SATURDAY, the 12th day of September, 1891, at Eleven of the Clock, in the Forenoon, precisely (China Mail, 5 Sept 1891) 

the links for the photos didn't work

After the 1891 bankruptcy, William Howell Forbes died about 5 years later, age about 50.  He and his wife, Dora Delano Forbes, who was only one year younger than he, had been married for 30 years. 

So, Rose Hill, the house she grew up in, and lived in most of her life, was sold.

The Forbes' had many houses around the world, and Dora moved to an apartment in Paris.  7 years later she married, in Paris, her husband's younger brother Paul Revere Forbes, when she was 58, and he was 45.  They, too, were married for over 30 years. 

Richard Phillips points out this article about FDR:

Tourists trudging through the Roosevelt family seat in
Hyde Park, New York, pass by Ming vases, a dinner
gong, and porcelain elephants—lasting evidence of the
family's deep, long-ago ties to China. Franklin D. Roosevelt's
grandfather. Warren Delano 11, had gone there in 1833 and
made a fortune in the tea and the opium trade, the latter
infinitely more profitable. He came home to America, lost
his fortune in more respectable enterprises, and went back
and made another fortune.
These riches underwrote a lavish lifestyle for FDR's mother,
Sara Delano Roosevelt, and her eight siblings. The family
occupied a sumptuous villa overlooking Hong Kong Harbor,
staffed by platoons of Chinese servants whose language Warren
Delano forbade his children to learn.

The rest of the article covers relations between America and China (especially FDR - Chiang) in WW2: