Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hong Kong's Former Police Married Quarters

The site of the former Police Married Quarters holds quite a bit of history for Hong Kong.  In fact, if not for that history the PMQ wouldn’t still be standing today.  Like the old Central Police Station Compound project, I am thrilled the city is finally doing something with the PMQ.  There are so many great buildings in Hong Kong that need help, and because the city hasn't shown interest until recent years, makes these projects and other like, very significant toward preserving the city's rich past.

Back in 1889, on the exact same location as the Police Married Quarters, once stood the Central School (1889-1941).  And before that, stood the Shing Wong Temple (1843-1877).  The Central School (later renamed as Queen’s College), was the first school in Hong Kong to provide upper primary and secondary Western education to the public.   As for the Shing Wong Temple, the Chinese population of Hong Kong regarded the temple as their town hall, if you will, as it represented the community’s first building project in Hong Kong.

Shortly after the Japanese invaded Hong Kong, during the Second World War (1941), the Queen’s College was severely damaged and had to be demolished in 1948, making way for the Police Married Quarters, which was built in 1951 and used until 2000. 
After several years of the quarters setting vacant, the city finally took action by rezoning the site for commercial and residential use, in attempt to sell the property in 2004.  As a result of concerned neighbors and historic activist, the city was pressured to take the property off the market and conduct research determining if the site had any historic relics dating back to the school and/or temple.  After the researcher's excavation was complete, uncovering portions of the original foundation of the school, the city started making plans to repurpose the site, persevering a small part of Hong Kong history. 

Along with the old Central Police Station compound (just a few blocks down Hollywood Road), the Police Married Quarters is also undergoing a major revitalization that will soon offer the residence of Hong Kong their only creative community hub, where local artist can create, exhibit, and educate.  The restored site will also offer an underground museum, which will showcase the foundation of the city’s first school and other historic relics found during the excavation.   

After more than 170 years, the old Shing Wong Temple building site will soon again become a forum for residence to congregate and socialize, much like, well... a town hall.

Here are a few images of the Central School (built in 1889), which was renamed Queen's College in 1890. 

View from Hollywood Road (lower north end of property)

View from Staunton Road (upper south end of property)

These pictures show the condition of the PMQ as it sat vacant for over a decade (2000-2013).

Portions of the original stone walls once surrounding the Queen's College,
still remain standing today.

What was once this....

Will soon be this...

I took these pictures last month showing some of the progress.

Although not very efficient (and like most all things Hong Kong, a little stuck in the past...), local contractors still prefer to use bamboo scaffolding tied with zip-ties.

And once complete... 

Interesting Facts:
  • Property dateline- 
    • 1843-1877 Shing Wong Temple
    • 1889-1941 Queen's College
    • 1951-2000 Police Married Quarters
    • 2014-Present PMQ Art Hub
  • Other important dates-
    • 1841-1997 Hong Kong was a British Colony
    • 1941-1945 Japan occupied Hong Kong during WWII
  • The PMQ were living quarters provided by the city for married police offers to share with their families.
  • Donald Tsang (a Knighted Commander by the British Empire in 1997, and later served as the Chief Executive of Hong Kong from 2005-2012) grew up in flat #414.
  • Hong Kong's population in 1941 was 1.6 million
  • Hong Kong's population in 1945 was less than 750,000