I'm guessing this hotel stood on the site of today's Sunning Plaza. The hotel card below gives the address as 'Hysan Ave', and James Cahill describes it as:
... a small, inexpensive and likeable hotel across Hysan Avenue from Lee Gardens. It disappeared years ago, replaced by a huge, glass-fronted I. M. Pei building.
Sunning House was definitely there in 1955 because my parents and I were residents in 1955 on arrival in Hong Kong by ship. We had to live there until furniture could be bought for our apartment on the Peak. Having little money, my parents went to the rattan shops in Wanchai and bought all rattan furniture which was big and cool and comfortable. I can still smell the rattan in the shops as well as the camphor wood chests.
The Sunning House Hotel posting is of interest to me as it was my “Home from Home” for long periods between 1966 and 1970. It sat between Sunning Road and Hoi Ping Road fronting onto Hysan Avenue. It catered mainly for long term stays including a lot of government families waiting to be allocated apartments. I don’t recall many tourists passing through it. It’s interesting to see the luggage label as I don’t ever recall seeing one during my time there, and I don’t recall seeing any advertisements for the hotel either.
A few months after I arrived, the huge rainstorm of June 1966 occurred. On the Sunday morning we woke to the horrendous roar of rain coming down and it was impossible to see the other side of the street. Those living on the higher floors woke up to find their rooms flooded out as the rooftop air conditioning systems were sucking in solid rain and exhausting it through the vents into their rooms. I was on a low floor so missed this excitement. Around 8 a.m. the deluge was six inches per hour. Very severe flooding and devastation was widespread. One of our waiters had been swept out of his family’s third floor flat in the street in North Point where cars are regularly pictured in various books piled up in Kings Road after being swept down the hill.
Just off the lobby was a dark cosy bar which was virtually impossible to pass to get to the rooms without being pulled in by one or more of the many residents or bar-flies from whom developed many long term friendships which exist even today. There was a nice restaurant on the ground floor where one afternoon I was invited to have high tea with an old gentleman who was one of the famous Lee family that owned the area. All the staff were very deferential to him.
Many interesting people used the facilities not only from government, but business, shipping, and journalism and more. There was certainly no lack of good conversation and banter in the bar presided over by the efficient barmen Mr Lee and “Fat Man” who responding to a slight nod from whoever’s turn it was to buy the next round of drinks would replenish the group. They always knew who was ‘in’ a particular group and who was ‘out’ from those congregating around the bar area.
During the latter part of my residency, a government department moved into offices across the road into what was later to become the Lee Garden Hotel. The Head of this government department used to spend most of his working day in the Sunning House bar staring into space, uncommunicative to anyone else.
All in all it was a typical hotel of its time as were the many long term residents.
Apart from the Hilton and Mandarin which were in their own price league, I think the only other hotels on the island used by expats and their families were The Cathy in Causeway Bay and The Victoria in Central which was probably more of a businessman’s hotel. The majority of hotels were on Kowloon side.
what excitement.... 'x ' is back from leave and staying at 'y' .....
these occurences of between 2 and 5 months for the families involved normally had to do with the 'wait' of the handover of duties between the leaver and the one taking over... for us teenagers then was a real fun time.
other places used by hk gvt were: the merlin, the fortuna, the jumbo (way up nathan), later, the hk hotel
I guess what's left of the old Sunning House is the Sunning Restaurant, which once operated in the now Sunning Plaza before moving to the basement of the Leighton House nearby some years ago.
Before moving to Leighton Centre roughly ten years ago, it operated on the ground & second floor, near the intersection of Hoi Ping Road and Leigthon Road.
Vanessa, thanks for the memories about these places. We've got an entry for the Merlin, but not the fortuna or jumbo. Any chance you've got addresses for them?
well the fortuna was at 345 nathan road above the wing on department store in yaumatei - the link to my postcard on f/b is not registering here, i will email image to you under separate cover.
the jumbo was on nathan on the left-hand side northbound just beyond the intersection with prince edward road. i am sure i have a matchbox somewhere which will undoubtably give its exact number. the jumbo was amongst the first hotels to have a self-catering kitchenette (saving on room service and eating out) and was in a handy location for kjs and kgv for those with kids at school.
three of my friends also recall staying at the fourseas hotel on waterloo road when they were tiny - a bit before my time (starting 67) as i only remember it as the spanking new fourseas bowl with apartments above, now in its third generation as metropark hotel.
Thanks Vanessa, I've made a place for the Fortuna here. Please let me know if you track down the Jumbo's address.
My memory of the restauring opearting at Hoi Ping & Leighton is sort of a blur. I could only recall it was once in Eton Tower at the corner of Hysen & Sun Hui (or Sun Wui) before moving to Leighton Centre.
Unfortunatey, this image doesn't show Sunning House as it was already demolished. This could have been between 1978 and 1980.
The then Sunning Plaza was designed by I.M. Pei and was inaugurated in 1982. Thus the construction site photo should be a bit before that.
Back in 2013 Sunning Plaza was prep for demolishment for yet another re-development, targeted 2018 for completion.
Saw an advert for the Sunning House Hotel from1950.
If I recall correctly, Sunning House Hotel is mentioned in the book, ‘King Hui: The Man Who Owned All the Opium in Hong Kong’ by Jonathan Chamberlain–Dec 2007.
Claims are made that the restaurant was a centre of the 1950s ‘social whirl ‘with named Hollywood film stars frequenting the place.
As a former resident there during the 1960s, I found hard the claims hard to picture as there were no indications of its past at that time. However, over the years an SCMP advertisement has surfaced for Sunning House’s ‘Champagne Room.’
The Australian film, Felicity, filmed some scenes outside the Sunning House Hotel in 1978, so it was still there at that time.
@ IDJ : "During the latter part of my residency, a government department moved into offices across the road into what was later to become the Lee Garden Hotel. The Head of this government department used to spend most of his working day in the Sunning House bar staring into space, uncommunicative to anyone else."
Can we have a name please, if you can remember ..... ot at least a hint ? He's probably no longer around in this world and you are safe from litigation..
re Bar Habitue’
The department was related to ‘Medical Services’ and I understood his title was the ‘Director of’.
I’ve no idea of a name after all this time. I don’t recall we ever spoke, maybe just a nod of recognition.
The completion date of the lower floors of what was later to become the original hi-rise Lee Garden Hotel when the upper floors were added should be noted somewhere in someone’s files. This date could give a clue as to which government department was occupying the building at the time.
Meanwhile, the initial building’s floors were used as offices, a bright, up-market, Supermarket was on the ground floor, as was a branch of the First National City Bank which I took photographs of the opening day celebrations with the entrance surrounded by the obligatory flower displays.
Wandering off onto another subject.
While the Lee Gardens Hotel upper floors were being added we got to know the Chief Engineer for the project. He related how at a project meeting he had just attended, parking meters the government had placed along the pavements fronting the building’s vehicle lay-by were an issue as they blocked access for construction materials and machinery. On being instructed to remove them, he being new to Hong Kong highlighted that they were government property and ripping out such material was not the done-thing where he came from. He was firmly instructed to advise the relevant government department that they had actually placed the parking meters within the Lee family property company’s boundaries. The parking meters quickly disappeared.
No doubt commercial property areas boundary demarcation became an issue as other redevelopments and land- values increased in the 1960s/70s leading to the pavement markings that can be seen today if you look closely. For instance, a continuous metal strip marker set into the surface existed the last time I looked at the pavements fronting Canton Road’s Harbour Centre parade of buildings and no doubt similar can be seen elsewhere in the city. The markers were positioned in the widened pavement surface directly below the very edge of a building’s overhead canopies denoting the owner’s boundary. Presumably the maintenance of pavements used by the public within the property owner’s boundary are therefore their responsibility rather than the governments.
Such markings could join the Gwulo files covering street furniture, manhole covers, fire hydrants, letter boxes, rat-bins, district boundaries et al.
The normal entrance for guests was certainly on Hysan Avenue. There were no entrances on the side streets.
Your film-still looks familiar as the front entrance, but there were no trees on the pavement during my time there
The complex of buildings on the block surrounded a courtyard from where the staff must have entered the back of the hotel.
An artist's rendition appears here on gwulo https://gwulo.com/atom/35439 Sunning House Hotel, Hysan Avenue frontage
IDJ, thanks for confirmation. Phil
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