Birthday Buildings in 2017 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Birthday Buildings in 2017

When we first looked at the Birthday Buildings for 2013, I was pleasantly surprised to find buildings still standing in Hong Kong that were 50-, 75-, 100-, 125-, and even 150-years old. Let's see how 2017 compares...


50-year-old buildings:

The biggest on the list is the Wah Fu Estate, a public housing estate on the south of Hong Kong island. Here are some photos of it under construction:

Hong Kong - Housing Project


1968 Wah Fu housing project


1968 Looking northwest to Wah Fu Estate

1967 was the year that the first residents could move in to the estate, but as the photos show, construction continued after that. The final block wasn't completed until 1978.

At that time the government was building and managing three very different types of housing: The first tier were the resettlement estates, offering simple accommodation to Hong Kong's neediest residents. They were typically people who'd previously lived in one of Hong Kong's squatter areas. Next came the low-cost housing estates, intended for those who had a family income of under HK$500 a month. Finally there were the Hong Kong Housing Authority estates like Wah Fu, aimed at those with family incomes in the range HK$400-900 a month.

I don't have the figures for 1967, but the 1968 Annual Report records 1 million people lived in resettlement estates, just over a quarter of Hong Kong's population at the time. Add in the low-cost housing and Housing Authority estates, and a total of 1.45 million people, or about 38% of Hong Kong's population, were living in government housing.

Back in the 1960s and 70s, the buildings and facilities at Wah Fu were top-of-the-range as far as government housing went. But fifty years on, tenants' expectations have risen and the buildings are showing their age. In 2014 it was announced that the Wah Fu estate would be cleared and re-developed. Allowing ten years to re-locate the current residents, the re-development is scheduled to start in 2024.


CORRECTION: Start time for Wednesday's talk

My talk on Wednesday, 17th May runs from 7pm til 8pm, not 6:30 - 7:30 as previously shown on the RAS website. That page has been corrected.

Click for details of the talk and how to reserve a seat.


75-year-old buildings:



100-year-old buildings

Gwulo doesn't a record have any buildings that were finished in either 1942 or 1917, and are still standing today. If you know of any we're missing, please let us know in the comments below. [UPDATE 22 May 2017: Thanks to Jenna for the tip that several buildings around the Tai Tam & Tai Tam Tuk reservoirs were finished in 1917.]


125-year-old buildings

The postbox on the Peak is a borderline case, as though there has been a postbox there since 1892, it has been replaced at least once over the years. Here's a c.1900 photo of the first postbox at that site (it's down in the bottom-left corner):

Matshed chair-shelter

And here's the current version:

Peak Pillarbox after maintenance

There was a time in 2015 when it seemed the postbox was going to be covered up because of its "inappropriate" royal ciphers. Thankfully that plan appears to have quietly been dropped. In the meantime a small sign has appeared next to the postbox:

Noticeboard next to Peak postbox

It reads:

Colonial post boxes are among the "historical street relics" of Hong Kong. They not only witnessed the developments of the colonial period but are also a part of the collective memory of Hong Kong residents. [...] There is a need for a conservation policy to be established before these relics disappear.

Very true!


The Gap Rock Lighthouse is another borderline case.

1920s Gap Rock Lighthouse
1920s Gap Rock Lighthouse, by eternal1966c1


Gap Rock in 2015
Gap Rock in 2015, by SW Poon

Although it was built by Hong Kong, and manned by lighthouse keepers from Hong Kong until 1941, it lies outside of Hong Kong's waters.


There's nothing borderline about the last one: the Dairy Farm Building is definitely within Hong Kong, standing at the top of Wyndham Street. Though it does show a "1913" date, which can be a bit confusing.

Dairy Farm Date

That's the year the building was extended (well, one of the years, as it was extended several times), but the original core was built in 1892.

Dairy Farm Building - Fringe Club
Dairy Farm Building - Fringe Club, by HK Man (香港在消失ing)


150-year-old buildings

Sorry, we don't have any matching Places for this year.

Nothing for 1867 either. So 2017 isn't such a good year for the birthday buildings  - all the more reason to hold on to our remaining old postboxes!


Find out more

If you'd like to see what information and photos we have for any of the buildings shown above, just click on the blue building name in the list. You can also click on any photo to see a larger version you can zoom in to.

And of course if you can add any memories, facts or photos, they'll be very welcome. Please click to leave a comment, or upload a photo.

Finally, you can also see the birthday buildings from 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Regards, David

Also on this week...

New posts, pictures & comments:

Readers' questions:


Hi David, would the French Mission Building count? The modification completed in 1917 was quite extensive and the building looked different. An aside... Is it possible to have your talk next week (as well as all future ones) recorded in some way? Thank you!

Sorry C, there aren't any plans to record the talk. The French Mission deserves an honourable mention for the changes in 1917, but the current list is based on the years they were initially completed.

Another building for the 50yo list is the Robert Black College. Thanks to Jerome Mellor for the tip.

Regards, David

Thanks to Jenna for the tip that several buildings around the Tai Tam & Tai Tam Tuk reservoirs were finished in 1917. I've added them to the list above.