Ideas about where this is | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Ideas about where this is

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Ideas about where this is

Idenficifation would be appreciated.

Many thanks.

Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Sunday, January 1, 1860


The tree-lined Praia suggests that this was taken in Macau. But cannot identify the building in the middle.

Sure you are right Moddsey. This picture comes from a set taken and as the others have been identified as Macau this was surely is as well. Canton is the only other possbility and though never having been there don't think it very likely as it is too early in the family history.


It's hard to blieve that the picture was taken at Macao; in 1860 the buildings were lined up by the sea; so, no isolated builing; it seems that there is a wall in front of the building... hard to find in Macao. With better quality i coukld check again in some architectural details from those times. João Botas More details at htpp://

macau was my first thought too, however, after looking at several buildings along that stretch of land i couldnt match the shapes or window layout to any pictures .  i asked joão botas who has a massive archive and blog of material relating to old macau and this is what he said:
'Almost impossible that the picture was taken in Macau: because of the high wall around the building; the building appears isolated and even in the XIX century that area had an uninterrupted link of constructions along the waterfront'

You guys are the experts. Have you seen the other pictures which are taken from the same set of my family album pictures?

If you search under John Olson you should find the lot.

Otherwise look through this site and see the images posted by me,  Sean.


Incidentally I think my great grandfather may have been in Macau very early having been in Lisbon in 1858. He was a Swedish sailor and I surmise he landed in Macau or Hong Kong around 1860. Story is at

If not Macau, any thoughts of the photo being of Shamian Island as seen here:

Probably not Macau for the reasons given. Perhaps the most important reason which is not mentioned is the complete absence of any hill line or building in the background, which in Macau along the Praya would have been close to impossible. The most likely answer is Canton, provided the family didn't holiday elsewhere on the China coast in a treaty port.


I think the photo is of the Bund, Shameen (Shamian) Island, Canton.

The tall buidling in the centre looks like the Arnhold, Karlberg & Co Building as seen here:

The building immediately to the right is the Butterfiled & Swire (B & S) Building. An extra top floor has been added since (date unknown) which does not appear in the original photo. This is today's view:

The comparison shots of the two buildings are from the B & S archive.

B & S Building (Two levels)

B & S Building (With the top floor added). Similar to the original photo, a flagpole can be seen on the top right of the Arnhold, Karlberg & Co Building.

Wow, I think moddsey has nailed it for you. An excellent bit of detective work.

A similar view from the HMS Falcon website:

Thanks moddsey I think you are bang on target. Brilliant.

A couple of comments on photos in this set have recommended dates later than 1860 as more likely. Thanks to Moddsey's detective work, we now have a firm identification of the location, which should help pin down the date.

The person posting the Flickr photo of the Arnhold, Karberg & Co building dates the building to 1905. Here's another small set of photos dated to 1907, showing the construction of the same building. Obviously they don't agree, but they suggest the building was completed post-1900.

So this set of photos may be from the early 20th Century, say 1905-1925? Can anyone see anything that would point to an earlier date, or narrow down the range further?

David I think you may be right about the dates being between 1905 and 1925.

My family had a home/business, whatever, in Canton in the early part of the 20th Century and the last Olson to leave HK was Charles W. Olson in 1927. However, I know my grandfather John Olson had to  make a visit to sort out business things in 1926 - have postcards to prove it - and would have expected the Canton end of their interests to have finished before 1921 when he and his wife and family left HK for Britain.

His visit in 1926 was, according to family legend, to sort Charles W. out who had been keeping an eye on my grandfather's interests but seems to have made some sort of a mess of that. Charles W. went off to Canada in 1927 as far as I know.

He died there in 1966 in Naniamo, Vancouver.