Photo (19): Telephone House 

Submitted by David on Fri, 11/20/2020 - 09:00

The fourth and final extract from the new Gwulo book introduces Kowloon's first skyscraper.




This photo looks south along Nathan Road from near the junction with Kimberley Road. It was taken in the 1950s, and captures a new generation of buildings that were starting to appear.

Back in Volume 2 (p. 82), we saw the three-storey buildings in the distance in the 1920s when they were bright and new. They’re still standing in the 1950s, but they’re definitely showing their age.


The first of the post-war generation that replaced them was Telephone House, the tall building with the clock tower in the centre of the main photo. Here’s how the newspapers described it in 1948:

Kowloon will see the beginnings of its first skyscraper when the first piles are driven this week for a twelve storey office building at the corner of Nathan and Cameron roads.

Though it pales in comparison with today’s 108-storey International Commerce Centre, its twelve storeys were a big deal in 1948. The obvious news was the building’s technological advance over its lowly neighbours, and how it would steal the Peninsula’s crown to become Kowloon’s tallest building. Readers would also have recognised another message behind the new building: Hong Kong was back on its feet after the lean war years, and was starting to grow again.

Other new buildings soon followed, including the Princess Theatre in the foreground. It was playing the movie Salome, dating the photo to August 1953, when the theatre building was less than a year old.


Kowloon’s redevelopment was working its way north along Nathan Road. If we turned 180 degrees we’d see another tall, new building.


This photo and its story come from the fourth section of Gwulo's new book, Volume 4 of Old Hong Kong Photos and The Tales They Tell. This final section shows photos of Kowloon taken in the 1910s through to the 1950s, using them to follow Kowloon's explosive development during those years.

Volume 4 of Old Hong Kong Photos and The Tales They Tell is available to order direct from Gwulo.


Further reading: