During my two years in Hong Kong I lived on the east side of Hong Kong Island in an apartment complex called Kornhill which lies within Quarry Bay. It wasn’t until shortly before I left in March this year that I discovered the area has an interesting history and I decided to take a closer look…

Quarry Bay

Unsurprisingly the area was originally a bay where rocks were quarried for construction. The bay disappeared after land reclamation, and was about 700m from the current coastline.

Tai-Koo Sugar Refinery
Tai-Koo Sugar Refinery
Taikoo Sugar Factory
Taikoo Sugar Factory
Taikoo Sugar Van
Taikoo Sugar Van
Swire Coca-Cola Van
Swire Coca-Cola Van

During British colonial times Quarry Bay (鰂魚涌) was originally home to Taikoo Dockyard (太古船塢), the Taikoo Sugar factory, and later the Swire Coca-Cola factory. A reservoir was constructed on the slopes of the hills above to supply fresh water to the factories.

Taikoo Dockyard under construction in 1902
Taikoo Dockyard under construction in 1902

The eastern part of the Quarry Bay, is largely owned by Swire and thus many places and facilities are named after the company’s Chinese name, Taikoo (太古).

Taikoo Dockyard in 1903
Taikoo Dockyard in 1903

By 1903, Taikoo was producing about 2,000 tonnes of refined sugar a week which was sold throughout China.

Taikoo Dockyard from the air
Taikoo Dockyard from the air
Taikoo Dockyard Pool
Taikoo Dockyard Pool
Taikoo Dockyard under US air raid during WWII
Taikoo Dockyard under US air raid during WWII

During the occupation in WWII, both the refinery and the dockyards were used by the Japanese, and the sites were targeted by Allied bombers leaving them in ruins.

Taikoo Dockyard from LIFE
Taikoo Dockyard from LIFE
Taikoo Dockyard in 1965
Taikoo Dockyard in 1965

The sugar refinery was rebuilt and reopened in 1950 but with new competition and large tariffs in other markets, the business was no longer viable. Along with the dockyards nearby which had also gone into decline they closed in the early 1970s.

Photographs from the Historical Photographs of China project.

However, the land was still valuable and in the 1970s what had been the docks became Taikoo Shing, a private housing development for the fast-emerging middle class. The newly built Quarry Bay MTR station also made the area more accessible.

Taikoo Shing under development in the 1980s

In the mid-1980s, the hillside was levelled and converted into Kornhill (康怡花園) apartments, the reservoir into Mount Parker Lodge (康景花園) apartments, and the Dockyard into Taikoo Shing (太古城). The Coca-cola factory is now Kornville (康蕙花園) apartments, and Taikoo Sugar is now the Taikoo Place (太古坊), a commercial complex (where I used to work).

Woodside House

Today little visible evidence of its industrial heritage remains, save for the foundation stone of the dockyard and the recently restored Woodside House (above) which served as the senior staff quarters for the Taikoo Sugar Refinery.

Sugar – Dusk: EAST, Swire Hotels Hong Kong

Fittingly the bar at the top of the East Hotel is named “Sugar” and has amazing views of Victoria Harbour.

Comments

  1. Ruth says:

    Oh wow – thanks for sharing. I’ve never put 2 and 2 together why the bar is called Sugar. But of course, there’s an easy explanation to it. Great post, love it!

  2. Tom Knox says:

    Fantastic to see these photos they bring back memories as I was born in Hong Long and went to Quarry bay Junior school . I have lots of memories of the area.

    • David says:

      Thanks for your comment – it must have been fascinating to see the transformation of that area over the time that you lived there. I really hope I’ll be able to return at some point also.

  3. Norman Yu says:

    I lived in Quarry Bay for 19 yrs and moved to Canada in 1971. Spent a lot of time swimming, fishing and horsing around Mount Parker and the reservoir. By any chance you have a picture of the reservoir which is now an apartment building. Thanks for sharing.

    • David says:

      Hi Norman – thanks for your comment, amazing to hear from people who lived there back then! I’m afraid I don’t have any additional photos but you might want to check out the “Historical Photographs of China” project which have a big online library: http://hpc.vcea.net/

  4. John Y says:

    Thanks for posting. I grow up in this area but didn’t know its history. I left Hkg in 71 and did not have much chance to return to the area. Your pictures brings back memories.

  5. sue says:

    Love the tidbits on this area that I called home for four year in the late 70s and early 80s. I was in Quarry Bay School then. Had no idea of this history at the time, but remember Kai Tak airports landing strip on the Kowloon side and City Plaza which was a large shopping center with an ice skating rink. Was there in the earlier development stage of the complex, so I remember the constant construction that went on with the newer apartment buildings. Thank you for sharing!

    • David says:

      Thanks Sue! I believe the City Plaza complex was developed over a number of phases as you suggest but the ice rink is definitely still there :)

  6. Robin Ellwood says:

    Lovely to see these old photographs. My Dad spent all his working life at Taikoo and i had a very happy two years at Quarry bay school just after the war before sadly being shipped off back to England to school. I have quite a lot of photos taken by friends after my dad retired to show him all the changes taking place. I loved the old terraces Braemar Stanley etc where taikoo people lived but most of all being collected in The Taikoo truck for trips to the beach usually big wave bay but sometimes Sheko, on Sundays in the summer.

  7. Joyce Shand says:

    Thank you for these wonderful pictures and history of Taikoo. My great grandfather worked at the Taikoo Sugar Refinery about 1894 to 1920. He was an engineer and I believe worked on building the docks. I was thrilled to find your information!

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