Birthday Buildings in 2020 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Birthday Buildings in 2020

We'll all be happy to see the end of 2020, but there's one last task I need to do - prepare this year's lists of birthday buildings:

50-year-old buildings:

You know it wasn't a very exciting year for new buildings when the highlight is a multi-storey car park ...

Hong Kong  -   Leaving   -   24 June 1971
Hong Kong - Leaving - 24 June 1971, by Ladycliff


Or maybe 1970 had a more interesting building that just hasn't been added to Gwulo yet? If you know of any, please create a page for them, and they'll automatically be added to the list above.


75-year-old buildings:

The places on this list frame the main event of 1945, the Japanese surrender and the end of the war.

The two projects built by the Japanese armed forces in Hong Kong date to the start of the year. Up on a hill overlooking Starling Inlet, they built a battery as part of a series of defences against any Allied landing on the nearby beaches. The Japanese pillboxes they built around the battery above Shan Tsui village still exist, and are described in Tymon Mellor's report of his visit to the site.

Shau Tau Battery - Pillbox 4
Shau Tau Battery - Pillbox 4, by Tymon


Meanwhile on Lamma Island, we can see the tunnels the Japanese excavated. The tunnels housed small boats that were intended for suicide attacks on Allied ships approaching Hong Kong. You can read more about the tunnels and boats, and they're easy to visit next time you're on Lamma.

"Kamikaze" tunnel, Lamma
View from the back of a "Kamikaze" tunnel on Lamma island


Hiram's Highway, the first road to Sai Kung, was built at the end of the year. Although that was after the Japanese surrender, the Japanese were also involved with this project, but this time as POW labourers under the supervision of a team of British Marine Commandos. Bill Lake has a good write-up on who built Hiram's Highway, and how it got its unusual name.

Hiram's Highway Stone
Hiram's Highway Stone, by HK Bill


100-year-old buildings

The old fire station in Tsim Sha Tsui is the most photogenic of the centenarians, having been restored as part of the 1881 Heritage project.

Re: Former Kowloon Terminus Fire Station
Re: Former Kowloon Terminus Fire Station, by moddsey


But a much plainer building caught my attention, the No.1 Fresh Water Supply Reservoir at Magazine Gap Road. That's because another reservoir made the news this week, the old service reservoir on Bishop Hill in Kowloon, built in the 1900s. It was no longer in use and as it was just described as a "water tank" it was scheduled to be demolished, but once the demolition started and people saw inside they realised it had a real hidden beauty - see the photos on the HKFP website. A flurry of posts of photos like those to social media led to the demolition being halted and then cancelled.

The reservoir at Magazine Gap Road is around 15 years younger than the one at Bishop Hill, but I wonder if it used the same design?


125-year-old buildings

Another building with a watery past, this small building is all that's left of the old Yau Ma Tei Pumping Station.

Yau Ma Tei Pumping Station - Still there...!
Yau Ma Tei Pumping Station - Still there...!, by The National Archives UK


Yau Ma Tei Pumping Station 2016.jpg
Yau Ma Tei Pumping Station 2016.jpg, by LizB


It's interesting to see it on the 1896 map of the area, when it had a sea-view to the front, and two ginger factories at the rear. I find the smell of ginger is very refreshing, but might have a different opinion if I had to work next to a ginger factory every day!


150-year-old buildings

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

Nothing to report here - do you know of any buildings from 1870 that are still standing?


175-year-old buildings

Hurrah! We had the first 175-year-old entry on the list last year, though it was a bit of a stretch as it was just an old boundary marker stone. But this year we have a proper building, the chapel in the Hong Kong Cemetery, believed to be the oldest surviving colonial building in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Cemetery 1890.jpg
Hong Kong Cemetery 1890.jpg, by Jennifer Lang


IMG_7745.JPG, by Jennifer Lang


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. And if you'd like to see more birthday buildings, here are the lists for 2019.


... or tell us more

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.


That wraps up Gwulo's newsletters for the year. Let me wish you all the best for the new year ahead, and let's hope that the vaccines work well so we can all put Covid-19 behind us.

Best regards, David


On Wikipedia there is an information on a temple from 1845, that doesn't exist any more, but some parts are preserved:

Hoi Shum Temple (海心廟; 'temple in the middle of the sea'). Built in 1845 for the worship of Tin Hau. It was demolished in the 1980s when the Typhoon shelter was reclaimed. Some of the temple pillars and footing stones are now preserved in the Shau Kei Wan Shing Wong Temple.

 StephenKwan posted that the Yau Ma Tei Carpark Building is from 1970, too.

Hi David, above you wrote: 

Or maybe 1970 had a more interesting building that just hasn't been added to Gwulo yet? If you know of any, please create a page for them, and they'll automatically be added to the list above.

I did that (YMT Carpark Building), but it isn't in the list. Regards, Klaus

I wonder if it's because there is already a demolition date added?

That is unintentionally laugh out loud funny! 

in hindsight I can see why that is, but I honestly wasn't being intentionally ironic, just figured it may have been a criteria the system uses to include the building on the list. Phil

Phil's right - the list is meant to only show buildings that are still standing, and so it uses "doesn't have a demolition date set" to decide which Places are included in the list.

Hi admin, this rule is comprehensible and pretty ok. But to be hair-splitting, the carpark building stood the whole year of it's anniversary in 2020.wink Regards, Klaus

Hi Klaus, you're right that the current system isn't the best - as time passes more buildings will be demolished and will fall off the lists. At some point I'll need to make the lists more specific, so they show buildings that are still standing, and also buildings that were demolished after the year the list first appeared.