Where: The view of Central from the harbour with The Peak above is a classic Hong Kong scene.
What: The original is an 10x8" albumen print with lots of detail, so we can zoom in and take a closer look at the buildings along the seafront. I'll work from left to right, giving the name of the 1890s building first, followed by (the name of the modern building on that site in brackets).
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A: Dent & Co. (East) / Russell & Co. / Cafe Wiseman [1863-1923] - (The Landmark)
B: Dent & Co. (Centre) / Holiday & Wise / later Melcher's [1858-c.1904] - (The Landmark)
C: Hong Kong Hotel, North Wing [1892-1926] - (The Landmark)
Previously this was the site of Dent & Co.'s third building, a mirror image of building A above. It was the first of the three to be redeveloped, with the new North wing of the Hongkong Hotel opening here in 1892.
D: Pedder Street
E: Duddell's / Hunt & Co. / Jardine, Matheson & Co. [1855-1907] - (Wheelock House)
F: Pedder Street Clock Tower [1862-1913] - (Junction of Pedder Street & Queen's Road Central)
The clock tower was back near Queen's Road. Although it wasn't on the seafront, I'll include it as it was a clear landmark in any photos of this scene.
G: 20 Des Voeux Road Central [????-????] - (Currently a building site, previously Tak Shing House)
H: P & O Building (3rd generation) [1887-????] - (One Chinachem Central, 22 DVRC)
I: Crosby's Store / Lane Crawford (1st location) [????-1901] - (Chong Hing Bank Centre, 24 DVRC)
J: 26 Des Voeux Road Central [????-????] - (Two Chinachem Central)
The sign on the top floor reads "British Mercantile Marine Officers Association". Can anyone tell us more about them?
K: 28 Des Voeux Road Central [????-????] - (Bangkok Bank Building)
I think the sign on this one is "Marine Club", though the second word isn't very clear. Again, if anyone knows more about this club, please let us know in the comments below.
L: 30-32, Des Voeux Road Central [c.1890-????] - (King Fook Building)
As the sign shows, "Carmichael & Co. Ld." had their offices here.
M: Li Yuen Street East
N: 34-46 Des Voeux Road Central [????-????] - (Fubon Bank Building, Tung Ming Building, Yat Fat Building)
There are lots of sign boards, but unfortunately they aren't clear enough for me to read.
O: Li Yuen Street West
P: Victoria Hotel [????-c.1895] - (Prosperous Building, Lee Kum Kee Central)
A rough rule-of-thumb for a Hong Kong building is that the shorter it is, the older it is. I believe this was the oldest building on the seafront at the time. As we'll see below, its days were numbered.
Q: Pottinger Street
R : 60 - 70 Des Voeux Road Central [????-c.1955] - (Man Yee Building)
S: Man Yee Lane
T: 72-82 Des Voeux Road Central [????-????] - (Two unnamed buildings, and Chiyu Bank Building)
U: Queen Victoria Street
V: Central Market (3rd generation) [1895-1937] - (Central Market (4th generation))
When: We've already noted that the North wing of the Hong Kong Hotel opened in 1892, so this photo can't have been taken any earlier than that.
Next there's something we can't see. For many years there was a busy pier at the end of Pedder Street, Pedder's Wharf. The photo below shows it was a substantial structure with a shelter building, so we couldn't miss it, but there's no sign of it in the main photo. The pier was closed in June 1894, then demolished in preparation for the reclamation work in this area. The main photo must have been taken some time after that date. This section of the reclamation was finished in 1899, giving 1894-1899 as the range of possible years the photo was taken.
Over at the right edge is Central Market. It was the third-generation of the market, completed in April 1895.
I think it looks finished here, as there's no sign of any scaffolding. That narrows the possible range again, so now we're looking at 1895-1899.
We mentioned the reclamation already. Checking the 1897 report on progress, I see:
Work on these sections has proceeded very satisfactorily during the year. The rubble mound opposite the Hotel, through which a gap had been left for boats, was completed to the proper level, levelled and weighted, and the first two courses of concrete blocks set in position.
There's no sign of work on any rubble mound in front of the Hong Kong Hotel, so I think we can trim the range again to 1895-1897.
Finally there's the old Victoria Hotel.
The Hongkong Telegraph for 30 May 1895 reported FATAL COLLAPSE OF OLD VICTORIA HOTEL, noting that: "At 1 o’clock this morning the main portion of the roof of the large building [...] collapsed with a loud crash, [...]".
The roof still looks intact in the main photo so I'll guess that the photo was taken sometime between the completion of the Central Market in April 1895, and the collapse of the hotel's roof in May of that year. As always, please leave a comment if you spot a mistake, or can add any further evidence.
Gwulo photo ID: A655
Further reading: If you've got Volume 3 of my books, pages 8-23 show how this scene changed from the 1900s through to the 1960s.
You can also click any of the links above to see more photos and any additional information we have about the buildings listed.
Finally, thanks to contributor Klaus for his recent post: Praya Buildings 1885 and 1895. It lists almost all the buildings mentioned above, and made writing this week's newsletter much easier!