A Stroll through Colonial Hong Kong and Kowloon

The Old Supreme Court Building (1912) - the very heart of Hong Kong.

The Old Supreme Court Building (1912) – the very heart of Hong Kong.

One is definitely NOT spoiled for choice on a heritage tour of Hong Kong and Kowloon, not because the city is short of the colonial – on the contrary, the colonial is everywhere, in the many skyscrapers erected in the ‘70s – ‘90s by British taipans and their descendents: the HSBC Tower and the Jardines Tower being but two of them; and both of them architecturally stunning, might I add…

What is lacking is turn-of-the-19th-century colonial architecture. These are buried in and amidst the spectacle of the contemporary city and its solipsistic, self-inspecting regard, clinging on desperately, scattered here and there like nuggets of gold strewn on a riverbed.

Hong Kong island itself is notoriously short of anything resembling the past, so eagerly did the latter-day British and Chinese rush to scramble what was once easily THE most splendidly monumental vista of colonial might and magnificence this side of Gibraltar. Kowloon Peninsula fares slightly better, since it was, always, on the periphery. Here, there are a few more built pieces from the past, some really quite splendid.

Because there just isn’t enough concentrated in the same area to warrant a proper joining of the dots, so to speak, this “walk” doesn’t really happen in any particular order; but rather, meanders in an opportunistic manner. We take in Hong Kong haphazardly and admire its trio of most famous and quintessentially colonial means of transportation – the Peak Tram, the Streetcar and the Star Ferry.

The Ferry takes us across the increasingly narrow (due to land reclamation) Victoria Harbour to Kowloon, where we potter down its main (colonial) thoroughfare, Nathan Road, to where the colonial city fuses with the Chinese city of Mong Kok. There, we pause and look beyond the threshold.

The Hong Kong Waterfront, with the fourth General Post Office Building (1976) to the right.

The Hong Kong Waterfront, with the fourth General Post Office Building (1976) to the right.

The three towers of downtown Hong Kong - the HSBC Building (1985) by Norman Foster, the Bank of China Tower (1990) by I.M. Pei, and the Cheung Kong Centre (1999) by Cesar Pelli.

The three towers of downtown Hong Kong – the HSBC Building (1985) by Norman Foster, the Bank of China Tower (1990) by I.M. Pei, and the Cheung Kong Centre (1999) by Cesar Pelli.

The Cenotaph (1923), commemorating the dead in both World Wars.  Behind it is Jardine House (1972) by Palmer & Turner, and 2 International Financial Centre (2003) by Cesar Pelli

The Cenotaph (1923), commemorating the dead in both World Wars. Behind it is Jardine House (1972) by Palmer & Turner, and 2 International Financial Centre (2003) by Cesar Pelli

The Old Bank of China Building (1952) by Palmer & Turner.

The Old Bank of China Building (1952) by Palmer & Turner.

The Gothic St John's Cathedral (1849), by

The Gothic St John’s Cathedral (1849).

The Former French Mission Building (1842), perched precariously on a knoll.

The Former French Mission Building (1842), perched precariously on a knoll.

Commercial colonial architecture, put to good use...

Commercial colonial architecture, put to good use…

Pottinger Street, known for its "Stone slab stairway" and once a major shopping street in the 1920s-30s.

Pottinger Street, known for its “Stone slab stairway” and once a major shopping street in the 1920s-30s.

The Former Central Magistracy (1914), located beside the Victoria Gaol and Prison Complex.

The Former Central Magistracy (1914), located beside the Victoria Gaol and Prison Complex.

The Old Dairy Farm Depot (1892), housing the Hong Kong Fringe Club and the Foreign Correspondents' Club today.  It used to literally be a warehouse and dairy depot.

The Old Dairy Farm Depot (1892), housing the Hong Kong Fringe Club and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club today. It used to literally be a warehouse and dairy depot.

Government House (1855) - the official residence of the Governor till 1997, save for a brief interregnum during the Japanese Occupation, when the Japanese added architectural features that melded East and West (like the tower).

Government House (1855) – the official residence of the Governor till 1997, save for a brief interregnum during the Japanese Occupation, when the Japanese added architectural features that melded East and West (like the tower).

The Helena May Building (1914), en route to the Peak.

The Helena May Building (1914), en route to the Peak.

Retired Peak Tram on Victoria Peak.

Retired Peak Tram on Victoria Peak.

Flagstaff House (1846), formerly the residence of the Commander of the British Armed Forces.  Today it is a Tea Museum located in Hong Kong Park.

Flagstaff House (1846), formerly the residence of the Commander of the British Armed Forces. Today it is a Tea Museum located in Hong Kong Park.

The Western Market (1906), in Sheung Wan.

The Western Market (1906), in Sheung Wan.

Hong Kong Tramways, trundling along between Central and Sheung Wan.

Hong Kong Tramways, trundling along between Central and Sheung Wan.

The Star Ferry, founded in 1888, and still only costing $2 per adult today.

The Star Ferry, founded in 1888, and still only costing $2 per adult today.

The Former Kowloon-Canton Railways Clocktower (1915).  the station itself, which was demolished, used to be linked to the Transiberian and was ultimately the terminus of a trans-asian train route.

The Former Kowloon-Canton Railways Clocktower (1915). the station itself, which was demolished, used to be linked to the Transiberian and was ultimately the terminus of a trans-asian train route.

Former Marine Police Headquarters (1884) in Tsim Sha Tsui. Today a luxury hotel and lifestyle shopping mall.

The spectacular Former Marine Police Headquarters (1884) in Tsim Sha Tsui. Today a luxury hotel and lifestyle shopping mall.

The Signal Tower was part of the Marine Police Headquarters and was used to signal time to ships in Victoria Harbour.

The Signal Tower was part of the Marine Police Headquarters and was used to signal time to ships in Victoria Harbour.

The Peninsula Hotel (1928) - Hong Kong's Grande Dame of hospitality.

The Peninsula Hotel (1928) – Hong Kong’s Grande Dame of hospitality.

The Kowloon Masjid and Islamic Centre (1986), on Nathan Road.  A mosque has stood here since 1846, indicating how Kowloon was Hong Kong's multicultural melting pot.

The Kowloon Masjid and Islamic Centre (1986), on Nathan Road. A mosque has stood here since 1846, indicating how Kowloon was Hong Kong’s multicultural melting pot.

The Former Kowloon British School (1902), Nathan Road.  Today it holds the Antiquities and Monuments Office.

The Former Kowloon British School (1902), Nathan Road. Today it holds the Antiquities and Monuments Office.

St Andrew's Church (1904), on Nathan Road.

St Andrew’s Church (1904), on Nathan Road.

Kowloon Union Church (1931), juxtaposed against a gleaming residential complex.

Kowloon Union Church (1931), juxtaposed against a gleaming residential complex.

The Kowloon Cricket Club (1904).

The Kowloon Cricket Club (1904).

Turn of the century building wedged in amongst its contemporaries, Kowloon.

Turn of the century building wedged in amongst its contemporaries, Kowloon.

Entrance to a typical Chinese residential building in Kowloon.

Entrance to a typical Chinese residential building in Kowloon.

And finally, a typically Kowloon landscape...

And finally, a typically Kowloon landscape…

 

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About Kennie Ting

I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Art & Architecture, China, Cities & Regions, Culture & Lifestyle, Landmarks & History, Literature & Philosophy, Photography, Sociology & Urban Studies, Travel & Mobility and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Stroll through Colonial Hong Kong and Kowloon

  1. Beautiful photos. Made me feel as if I was right there with you. Thanks for sharing.

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