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Uniquely HK

Feature Story

Hong Kong's Most Iconic Historic Buildings

The unique combination of grand colonial buildings and enchanting Chinese tong laus makes Hong Kong a haven for architecture lovers. Take CityLife’s walking tour to experience a step back in time.

 

What makes Hong Kong's architecture and cityscape so fascinating is its incongruous juxtaposition: modern, gleaming, glass-clad skyscrapers interspersed with old buildings and infrastructure, including many of historical significance. There are colonial edifices of varying classical designs, and the tong laus – a vanishing breed of four- and five-storey tenement buildings with gallery balconies combining Western and Chinese architectural elements. These two types of buildings also represented the social strata of Hong Kong during British colonial rule – contrasting the formal buildings that were home to institutions and authorities and the tong laus where the common Chinese lived and worked.

Thankfully, even as Hong Kong transformed itself into a modern metropolis, the Government managed to preserve or revitalise many of these buildings and protect them under various heritage statuses. We have picked out some of the best and most iconic buildings for you to explore and get a glimpse of the past. Enjoy!
 
Murray House
Year built/Original Use: 1844, in Central; Officers’ quarters of the Murray Barracks
Current Use: Commercial Building
Architectural Style: Classical
Did you know? The building was dismantled brick by brick in 1990 due to redevelopment of its original site and put into storage. The building was rebuilt in 2002 in Stanley and now houses shops and restaurants.
What to do: You must visit the Stanley Market, Stanley Plaza, the promenade and the Blake Pier nearby. Enjoy an enchanting meal at one of the restaurants there and take in the scenic views.
Address: 96 Stanley Main Street, Stanley, Hong Kong
 
 
 
St. John’s Cathedral:
Year built/Original Use: 1849; Parish Church; Anglican
Current Use: Mother Church and Cathedral of the Anglican Diocese of Hong Kong Island
Architectural Style: English/Gothic Revival
Did you know? The cathedral is the oldest surviving Western Christian ecclesiastical building in Hong Kong and the only one built on a freehold land parcel granted to the church. All other land parcels in Hong Kong are leasehold.
What to do: The cathedral is an oasis of quite solitude in the heart of the city. Spend the time to enjoy the sumptuous architecture and connect with your spiritual vibe.
Address: 4-8 Garden Road Central, Hong Kong
 
 
 
 
Old Supreme Court/ The Final Court of Appeals
Year built/Original use: 1912; Supreme Court; Legislative Building (1985-2011)
Current Use: Final Court of Appeals
Architectural Style: Neo-classical
Did you know? The Final Court of Appeals is the equivalent of the Supreme Court, the name of the highest judicial court during the Colonial period.
What to do: Landmarks abound near the Supreme Court. Check out Statue Square, the Cenotaph, the Old Bank of China and HSBC Building nearby.
Address: 8 Jackson Road, Central, Hong Kong
 
 
 
 
Tai Kwun (Former Central Police Station Compound)
Year built/Original Use: Between 1841 to 1925; 16 historical buildings comprising the former Central Police Station, Central Registry Building and Victoria Prison.
Current Use: Art and Heritage Centre, a comprehensive preservation and re-development project that transformed these buildings into one of the city’s premier heritage landmarks
Architectural Style: Colonial
Did You Know? The re-development was funded by the Hong Kong Jockey which spent more than $3.8 billion over an 8-year period.
What to do: There are so many places to explore, including the former prison and be sure to visit one of the many excellent F&B outlets.
Address: 10 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong
 
 
1881 Heritage (Former Marine Police Headquarters Compound)
Year built/Original Use: 1884; Marine Police Headquarters
Current Use: This site and the adjacent former Kowloon Fire Station were redeveloped into a commercial complex of retail shops, fine-outlets and the 1881 Heritage Hotel
Architectural Style: Neo-classical
Did You Know? In the late 1800s, at the Time Ball Tower, the time ball was dropped at 1 pm everyday to allow all ships to recalibrate their clocks and watches before they sailed to sea again.
What to do: Besides exploring the premises, 1881 Heritage is one of the best Instagram spots and for taking wedding photos. Click away!
Address: 2A Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
 
 
 
 
Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum (Kom Tong Hall)
Year built/Original Use: 1921; residence building of Ho Kom Tong, brother to Robert Ho-tung, one of the most prominent Chinese businessmen/philanthropists in the late 1980s and early 1900s.
Current Use: Museum
Architectural Style: Edwardian classical with Greek-style columns
Did you know? Kom Tong Hall was purchased by the Mormon Church in 1960 which served as its headquarters in Hong Kong till 2004 when it was purchased by the Hong Kong Government.
What to do: Enjoy exhibits detailing the life of Dr Sun Yat-sen, founding father of Modern China.
Address: 7 Castle Road Central, Hong Kong
 
 
 
 
Flagstaff House (Museum of Tea Ware)
Year Built/Original Use: 1846; Headquarter House -Residence of the Commander officer of the British Forces in Hong Kong
Current Use: Museum of Tea Ware since 1984
Architectural Style: Greek Revival
Did you know? The first occupant of the building was Major-General George Charles D’Agui;ar ,General Officer Commanding from 1844 to 1846, after whom a popular street in Lan Kwai Fong was named.
What to do: The museum has a fine collection of Chinese tea ware plus collections ceramics and Chinese seals. Hong Kong Park where the museum is located is a nicely landscaped park with gardens and a large aviary.
Address: 10 Cotton Tree Drive, Central, Hong Kong
 
 
Tong Laus
The Blue House
Year Built/Original Use: 1920; residential tenement building
Current Use: House of Stories, a Living museum plus tenement flats
Architectural Style: Ling-nam Style 4-storey tenement building with balconies.
Did You Know? The building clusters comprised of three inter-connected buildings; they were painted bright blue, orange and yellow in 1990 after being purchased by the government. Together they form a residential and community services cluster compound.
What to do: The Blue House is one of the stops of the Wan Chai Heritage Trail. Several other heritage landmarks are nearby, including the Old Wan Chai Post Office, Hung Shing Temple and Pak Tai Temple.
Address: 72, Stone Nullah Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
 
 
 
 
The Pawn
Year Built/Original Use: Around 1890s to early 1900s; commercial tenement Building with retail shops
Current Use: Retail: Revitalised Cultural heritage building housing The Pawn Restaurant and other F&B outlets and retail shops
Architectural Style: Four-storey Gallery-style balcony tenement building
Did you know? The building was built on reclaimed land; the original coastline in Wan Chai goes back to Queen’s Road East.
What to do: Check out J Sense, a commercial complex in which The Pawn is part of, featuring a myriad of trendy restaurants and bars. Also visit Lee Tung Avenue, another landmark redevelopment site and home to the former Wedding Cards Street.
Address: 66 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
 
 
 

 

7 Mallory Street
Year Built/Original Use: Around 1920s; a block of 10 tenement mixed-use buildings
Current Use: Public venue for events, activities and exhibitions
Architectural style: Tong laus with balconies, a pitched roof and time French windows.
Did you know: This site was formerly the Comix Home Base which has returned to the Hong Kong Arts Centre located on Wan Chai North.
What to do: The venue is close to 288 Computer Zone on Hennessey Road and a popular local spot for all things electronics.
Address: 7 Mallory Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
 
 
 
 
Wing Lee Street
Year Built/original Use: 1960s; tenement style buildings; shops and residences
Current Use: Mostly private workshops and offices and residences
Architectural Style: Tong Laus, Post -WWII style.
Do you Know? The award-winning movie Echoes of the Rainbow was filmed at this street which help galvanised public sentiment against redevelopment of the street by the Urban Renewal Authority, which scrapped the project in the end.
What to do: Shing Wong Street which leads up to Lee Wing Street, is part of the Dr, Sun Yat-sen heritage Trail and features are other historical buildings, an interesting wall mural, and a set of expansive steps leading up to the Mid -Levels.
Address: Wing Lee Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
 

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