Thursday, 1 January 2015

Connaught Road fifty years later, Hong Kong Island

We haven't had one for a while, but for several years we would receive a ‘heritage’ calendar from my wife's company. They were (and still are) rather nicely produced and featured a ‘heritage’ photo on each month - each year highlighting a different photographer or era of photos. Out of the 4 or 5 years we had them, 2 of those years were dedicated the the photographs of Hedda Morrison, who visited Hong Kong in both 1947 and again later in 1959 documenting both trips with some very impressive and interesting pictures.

I found one picture of Connaught Road (taken during her 1959 trip) quite interesting for a couple of reasons. First, and perhaps most obviously, the picture (see below) shows Connaught Road at a time when it was right on the waterfront. You can even see the old Blake Pier in the foreground (it now stands next to Murray House in Stanley). However, most amateur history enthusiasts, like myself, will already know how much of the harbourfront has changed over the years. What is more interesting to me is the fact that there are two buildings on this photograph that are still standing today - over fifty years later! In HK that is quite an impressive achievement.

As luck would have it, not so long ago I was in a similar position to where Hedda Morrsion may have been when she took that snap - the difference of course is that she was most likely taking her photograph from the not-so-sturdy deck of a boat whereas I, of course, was standing on dry land over by Exchange Square. Here is my not-so-stellar effort.

Can you spot the similarities yet? The small tiered art deco building on the right is the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce (C.G.C.C). Here’s a closer look and you can see the C.G.C.C letters at the top. In case you didn't know, this is where you have to go if you want to apply for a Chinese Home Return Permit.

The other structure that is common to both pictures is the older building on the left of my first snap. It’s called the Grand Building and currently houses the Catholic Centre – when Morrison snapped it in 1959 it was a brand new building, just completed. It was a reasonably tall building when it was built, in fact it’s the tallest one on Morrison’s photo but now is a relative midget. Such is progress. If you look closely you can see it had some Chinese characters on it in 1959. I can’t say for certain but I believe those characters are: 白花油行 (Baak Fa Yau Hong i.e. the White Flower Oil Company). White Flower Oil is a very famous local medicinal ointment.

So what happened to the other buildings in Morrison’s photo? Well, the one immediately adjacent to the Grand Building – with the Omega advert – was redeveloped and the current building, Fung House was built on the site in 1982. The smaller block with the Heinz 57 varieties advert was knocked down not long after Morrison’s picture was taken. The current building that sits there is called the Chinese Club Building and was built in 1966.

Anyway, Morrison’s pictoral journeys through China and HK have recently been reissued in book form courtesy of Edward Stokes and HKU Press. Link here.

Incidentally, Edward Stokes is also the Founder Director of The Photographic Heritage Foundation who produced the aforementioned Heritage Calendar:

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