Jun 04, 2009|
Abandoned buildings in Hong Kong? The idea seems preposterous, given our local tycoons' nose for a prime piece of real estate. But derelict properties do exist, having been left to decay for decades. We discover the stories behind these once-occupied buildings now fallen to rack and ruin.
Mansion on Po Shan Road, Mid-Levels | St. Luke’s College, Wan Chai | Nam Koo Terrace, Wan Chai | Tung Chi College, Wan Chai | Old Kai Tak Fire Station, Kowloon City | Bomb Shelter, Wan Chai | So Lu Pun Village, New Territories North
At the end of Po Shan Road lies this abandoned house. It stands at four stories and its high ceilings and spiral staircases indicate that it was once a very grand mansion. The house appears to have no name, and a number of mysterious stories surround it. Neighbors say that the house once belonged to Lui Lok, the former chief Chinese inspector of the police who in the 1960s was one of the most corrupt policemen on the force. The story goes that Lui fled to Taiwan to avoid arrest by the ICAC in the 1970s, and his house has been left standing ever since. However, property agent Savills, who has the property on its books, says that the house belongs to the directors of a tobacco company, and that the place has nothing to do with Lui. While we can’t be certain of how exactly the mansion has fallen into such a state of disrepair, the comings and goings of local youths and the broken glass and graffiti on the walls certainly suggest that it’s not going to be snapped up any time soon. Top
Hidden away from the residential buildings on Schooner Street is a staircase that leads up to a famous abandoned school—St. Luke’s College. Unused since the 70s, you can still find wooden chairs, desks and blackboards in some of the classrooms. St. Luke’s was used as a military brothel during WWII. “This building used to be a private residence, owned by an old couple. When they refused to surrender their house, they were killed by Japanese soldiers,” says Yvonne Ng, tour guide with the Wan Chai Community Tour. Top
Speaking of haunted sites, no list of abandoned buildings would be complete without Nam Koo Terrace in Wan Chai. More popularly known as “The Wan Chai Haunted House,” the three-storey red brick building on Ship Street was owned by businessman To Chun-man in 1918. The architecture embodies both western and Chinese aesthetics, and was considered a luxury residence at the time it was built.
During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, like other abandoned sites in the neighborhoods, Nam Koo Terrace was used as a military brothel, says Ng. To was forced to evacuate the mansion for the duration of the war, and he died soon after his return. These days, people report seeing ghostly flames, which Ng says are probably just fires started by local vagrants using the place as a shelter. Hopewell Holdings now owns the property, which they acquired as part of their Mega Tower hotel project, though the plan to raze the place has yet to be approved by the Urban Renewal Authority, as the structure is classified as a Grade I Historical Building. Top
At the bottom of the Ship Street staircase is another dilapidated structure, one that’s almost unrecognizable as the school it used to be, thanks to a fire that gutted it in the mid-80s. The only thing that offers a clue about its previous incarnation is the inscription engraved on its stone wall. The privately run college stopped admitting students in the 1970s, though in its time it did produce some big names—local English singer-songwriter Teddy Robin studied there. Before the school was founded, it was used as a high-end military brothel for Japanese soldiers in WWII (we’re starting to wonder if invading troops did anything else while they were here). “People say that the school’s drama room is haunted,” says Ng. “Some say that they have seen spooky shadows appearing on the stage.” Top
Once an important part of Kai Tak Airport, the staff of the Kai Tak Fire Station used to always be on hand to battle blazes at the airport. The vast structure now stands empty after the airport was relocated to Lantau, and last year the station itself was the victim of a fire that gutted the interior. It’s now a hotspot for photo shoots, thanks to the apocalyptic debris that litters the floor. Top
Have you ever walked past Star Street and wondered about that three-storey high red cloth draped between two buildings? The cloth—and the Ba Kung Temple behind it—were erected to ward off evil spirits from the old WWII bomb shelter. It was there that many people lost their lives due to a malfunctioning alarm that failed to warn them of an air raid. According to Ng, the temple was torn down after the war to make way for new developments, but residents nearby claimed they were being haunted by flying, disembodied heads, and that their doorbells kept ringing when there was no one at the door. Most chillingly, a security guard disappeared one night without a trace. The temple was eventually rebuilt in front of the shelter and the red cloth was put back up to protect residents against the spirits. Today, the shelter door remains firmly shut to outsiders, but the two giant pillars holding the structure up still remain, and have become popular among local amateur photographers. Top
In the past few decades, many village homes in the New Territories have been abandoned as local villagers move to the city. But one village out in Shau Tau Kok is known by locals as a “ghost village.” So Lu Pun Village is a four-hour hike from Luk Keng in Fanling, and is the subject of several local ghost stories. Some say that many of the villagers died in a boat accident on the way to a wedding banquet, and the rest deserted the village soon after. Other stories include the tale of a man who was invited out to the village to celebrate a local festival, but found the place deserted when he arrived, while another yarn claims that a man died of a heart attack after seeing ghostly figures there. The truth, however, is far less interesting. So Lu Pun’s village representative (who doesn’t actually live there) debunked all the claims, saying that he and the other villagers simply moved out to the city because the village is too remote. Top
Additional reporting by Richard Otsuki.
Also see: "Claim Your Squatter's Right", to find out how to take over an abandoned house.