What a difference a few years make. These photos show the pace of Hong Kong’s development in the Central business district since the 1970s and 80s, when the city’s construction boom began to propel its skyline ever-upwards.
Life in Central Hong Kong, 1970s vs today
The price of that progress? The loss of a few of Hong Kong’s most beautiful heritage buildings, for one.
Wyndham Street, 1978
1) The distinctive stripes mark the Dairy Farm Depot, built in 1892 as a cold storage warehouse and dairy.
2) Jimmy’s Kitchen opened in 1928, serving international comfort food to military officers and homesick expats. It’s been in the same location since 1975.
3) The Jimmy’s Kitchen sign still exists – it’s just blocked by one of the many covered walkways that make up the network of Hong Kong’s city center.
4) The Foreign Correspondents’ Club moved into the old depot in 1982, where it stands to this day as a bastion of press freedom and boozy journalists.
The Queensway flyover, 1978
1) The Murray Building was a 1969 government building. It was designed with slanted windows that prevent direct sunlight from entering – and save on air-con costs. The building has just reopened as luxury hotel The Murray.
2) The former Murray Barracks were dismantled piece by piece in the 1980s before being reassembled 20 years later in Stanley, on the south side of Hong Kong Island.
3) For better or for worse, the Hilton Hotel is the place where the minibar was invented and introduced in 1974.
4) IM Pei’s imposing Bank of China tower sits where the Murray Barracks once were.
5) The old Art Deco Bank of China building is still the same.
6) This parking garage, too – but it’s about to be knocked down. It was bought from the government in 2017 for a record $3 billion.
Hong Kong Cricket Club grounds, 1969
1) The Mandarin Hotel was opened in 1963 as the tallest building in Hong Kong, and built a reputation as one of the greatest hotels in the world.
2) The Hong Kong Cricket Club was founded in 1851, nine years after the establishment of Hong Kong. The cricket pitch was formed on a former military parade ground.
3) In 1974 The Mandarin merged with The Oriental hotel in Bangkok, to create The Mandarin Oriental chain. The hotel is still one of the finest in the world.
4) The cricket club moved out of Central in 1975 to a greener location, and the Chater Garden public park stands in its place.
Lan Kwai Fong, 1985
1) Lan Kwai Fong, which means “orchid square,” used to be an area for hawkers and professional matchmakers.
2) These days LKF is the center of Hong Kong’s nightlife: and it all started with California restaurant, which opened right here in 1983.
3) The flower stalls are still there – they’re just kept company by a cigarette stand.
Chater Road, 1974
1) Established in 1846, the Hong Kong Club was the city’s first gentlemen’s club. The club’s membership rules were as you might expect: no women. Oh, and by an unspoken rule, no non-whites either.
2) This colonial edifice housed the Supreme Court from 1912 until 1983, and then the city’s Legislative Council until 2011.
3) Completed in 1984, this 25-story building is still home to the Hong Kong Club – which owns the building outright. Women and non-Westerners are now allowed to join.
4) The Supreme Court – now named the Court of Final Appeal – moved back into the building in 2015.
Des Voeux Road Central, 1975
1) This is already the second version of Alexandra House to sit upon this spot, completed in 1954.
2) Hong Kong’s double-decker tram and bus systems are still going strong – although the models have had a bit of an upgrade. And no one rides bicycles any more.
3) The Gloucester Building was originally a hotel. The pillared shopping arcade style was once ubiquitous in Hong Kong because it kept the elements at bay – but disappeared with the advent of widespread air-conditioning.
4) The current Alexandra House was finished in 1976, and is one of Hong Kong’s most sought-after addresses.
5) The Gloucester Building was replaced by The Landmark, Hong Kong’s glitziest shopping mall – a title for which there’s significant competition.
HSBC headquarters under construction on Queen’s Road Central, 1982
1) This site has been home to HSBC since 1865. The previous headquarters, built in 1935, was the first building in Hong Kong to be fully air-conditioned.
2) Beaconsfield House – known in Chinese as “Defend the North House” – was a government building which houses, among other things, several officers’ messes, the government’s communications department – and a public toilet.
3) HSBC’s shiny new headquarters was completed in 1985. At the time of its completion, the building was the most expensive in the world.