By Rachel Lau
Many of us that spend time living and working in Taikoo Place and Eastern District know little about the area’s fascinating history. Let us help you imagine what it used to look like; here is a list of significant sites of yesteryear.
Taikoo Sugar Refinery
The large area bound by Finnie Street, Westlands Road and King’s Road used to be home to the Taikoo Sugar Refinery. At one point, it was the largest and one of the most technologically advanced in the world, contributing to Hong Kong’s growth as an economic hub. It closed in 1973, making way for Taikoo Place. Across King’s Road was the bustling workers’ village, where housing complex (and Instagram hotspot) Montane Mansion now stands. Employees lived in the hills and used to travel to and from the refinery on Hong Kong’s first cable car system. It had two open cars, each carrying six passengers, and was powered by steam. Today, East Hotel’s bar Sugar pays homage to the factory’s with its name.
Taikoo Place, 979 King’s Road, Quarry Bay
Lei Yue Mun Fort
Military history with a view
What’s now the hillside site of the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence used to be Lei Yue Mun Fort, built in 1887 to fight off invaders heading into Victoria Harbour from the east. In December 1941, the fort was put to the test, when local defenders fought to protect Hong Kong Island from the Japanese – an effort that ultimately failed. But today visitors can still enjoy the unique architecture and pathways of the structure and admire an old British Comet tank, an armoured personnel carrier and a 10-inch breech-loading gun. The harbour views aren’t bad, either. Hong Kong
Museum of Coastal Defence, 175 Tung Hei Road, Shau Kei Wan
Model Housing Estate
Oldest public housing estate
Hong Kong’s public housing estates tend to consist of identical towering blocks packed closely together. But the six-block Model Estate, built in 1954 – it’s the oldest surviving public housing estate in Hong Kong – stands apart. Unlike other subsidised housing, which is mostly built by the government, the Model Estate project was initially developed by an independent organisation called the Hong Kong Model Housing Society. The group made the complex shorter, wider, more spacious and ultimately more comfortable.
Model Housing Estate, 770 King's Road, North Point
Centre of culture and entertainment
In the early 1950s, Hong Kong was as a burgeoning entertainment and cultural hub. The construction of the Empire Theatre in 1952, later renamed the State Theatre, put Hong Kong front and centre in the world of classical music and lured elite international musicians to its stages. Seating 1,400 people, it was a grand stand-alone venue, characterised by beautiful concrete arches rising over the roof. The arches suspended the ceiling and provided stability for a column-free auditorium. This feature is said to be one-of-a-kind in all of Asia and has elevated the theatre to be classified as a Grade I historic building. Currently the theatre is but a shell of its former self and is under threat of being demolished.
State Theatre, 279-291 King's Road, North Point
North Point Power Station
Firing up the island
Built in 1919, the North Point Power Station provided electricity to a large part of Hong Kong Island, leading to the renaming of Electric Road. However, during the Battle of Hong Kong, the plant was greatly damaged by Japanese artillery. A housing estate called “City Garden” now stands in its place.
233 Electric Road, North Point