Altadena [????-????]

Submitted by David on Wed, 04/06/2011 - 21:01
Current condition
Demolished / No longer exists

Although the main building shown in the 1930s photos has been demolished, as of 2011 its double-garage is still standing on Barker Road.

Later place(s) at this location

Photos that show this Place


The house is mentioned a couple of times in Tony Banham's research. On page 15 of his book "We Shall Suffer There ...", there's an account from shortly after the British surrender in December 1941:

Norman H. Briggs was an American civilian living on the Peak: "Mac, the Suters, and I were billeted in the Company house, 459 the Peak, which was called Altadena: The first visit at the house we had from the Japanese was on December 26th. They came in sometime during the afternoon. All 23 of us were in the house when they arrived, plus 15 Chinese servants. Around eight Japanese came in... The officer asked who we were, British or American? We replied both, then gave them a list showing our names, ages, sex, and nationality as requested.

The book's footnotes explain that "the Company" was the Standard Vacuum Oil Company:

New to Hong Kong, Briggs had left Pasadena, California on 14 August 1941, to return to the Far East for his employer, Standard Vacuum Oil Company. All quotes from Briggs are from his memoirs, taken in Hong Kong, though the version used here was the original manuscript kindly supplied by his daughter.

Then in the list of civilians on Tony's website, we get a better idea of who the other "23 of us" were:


  • Cassidy, P.S. 52, Merchant, No 459 LRTP
  • Gerondal 49, Mrs., No 459 LRTP
  • Gerondal, A.E. 49, Shipbuilder, No 459 LRTP
  • Matthews 55, Mrs., No 459 LRTP
  • Sayers, J.R. 42, Mrs., No 459 LRTP
  • Tanner, Richard Lancelot 40, husband of Doris Edith Tanner No 459 LRTP UCWD 30.9.45
  • Whitfield 34, Mrs. No 459 LRTP
  • Whitfield, J.M 9, No 459 LRTP
  • Whitfield, J.P. 39, Government Servant, No 459 LRTP
  • Whitfield, T.I. 8, No 459 LRTP


  • Bourne, A.W. 50, US, Man. Standard Oil, No 459 LRTP
  • Briggs, N.H. 36, US, Standard Oil, No 459 LRTP
  • Durrschmidt, H.C. 51, US, Standard Oil, No 459 LRTP
  • Koch, E.F. 51, US, AM Standard Oil, No 459 LRTP
  • Lee, F.X. 52, US, Standard Oil, No 459 LRTP
  • Nelson, E.W. 47, US, Standard Oil, No 459 LRTP
  • Rea, H.A. 41, US, Standard Oil, No 459 LRTP
  • Ulrich, M. 37, US, Standard Oil, No 459 LRTP

I have always wondered how Altadena and Cragside looked before they were converted to lowrises.  I knew that Altadena was owned by Standard Oil, I mentioned it in a thread some while back.  Does anyone know who owned Cragside?  Were Altadena and Cragside developed together? 

Any idea if the switch involved re-building, or just a change of owner & name?

Interesting to see that the note on Briggs above said he'd arrived from Pasadena, California. Altadena is the name of the district adjacent to Pasadena. Maybe the Standard Vacuum Oil Co. had offices in that area, and named their Hong Kong premises Altadena as a link to home?

Regards, David

I drove past this evening amazing to think those garages are still there in some form or other. The roofing of double garage is completely intact and as was in the 193os when the photo was taken. On the single garage I could see the rusted door hinges. There was a military type sign on the back wall saying NO SMOKING and the roof although demolished looked like it had been reinforced (possibly during the war). Norman Briggs who worked for Standard Oil and who wrote "Taken in Hong Kong" lived in Altadena or had an apartment there in 1941

Rereading "Taken In Hong Kong"  - I see that Altadena was the residence of the General Manager of Standard Oil in 1941 and Norman Briggs was billeted there during the fighting. The house figures prominently in Norman Briggs diary. Phil C

My grandparents George and Paula Bell lived there from 53-61. He was the area manager for Standard Vacuum and Oil in that season. My uncle David Bell grew up there and my mother Alison Bell Holman met my father while living there (during a gap year, ‘58, from college back in the US). We still have some photos of family standing by the pool overlooking Hong Kong and the harbor.