Thursday, September 07, 2006

How Causeway Bay got its Park

I was highly amused when reading through the minutes of a Hong Kong Legislative Council meeting from July 1898, where one member, a Mr. T. H. Whitehead, was strongly urging the Government to build a recreation ground in Causeway Bay. Here's the funny bit:
...there is now vacant and unappropriated at Causeway Bay a limited area of level ground, open to the sea and easily accessible by road, now temporarily used, under permission from the Government, for purposes of recreation; that this piece of ground although open for sale for building purposes for a number of years has remained unsold, the Chinese being apparently still unwilling to move out into that quarter of the city; that even should this neighbourhood ultimately become, contrary to present appearances, a densely populated neighbourhood inhabited mainly by Chinese, it will be highly desirable that some sufficient area should be maintained in the midst thereof for purposes of light, of ventilation, of recreation, and as a lung, or breathing space for the locality. The ground now referred to, situate nearly between Jardine's Bazaar and North Point, is admirably suited to serve for such a purpose...
So Mr. Whitehead didn't really see how Causeway Bay could become crowded or full of Chinese people. Well, shows how much can change in a hundred-odd years!

But he brings up the point that people cared a great deal about the environment and air pollution even in those days. He cited the creation of the park as not only "materially add[ing] to to the value of the neighbourhood, but it will permanently promote the physical health and happiness of large numbers of the residents."

In fact, Mr. Whitehead had cited the following as other reasons for building a park, ones that are just as relevant today:
...the population of the colony of Hongkong is steadily increasing...within the limits of the city of Victoria all available land is being closely built over; houses are rising in height to three, four and five stories [multiply by 20 for today's equivalent.-Ed.]; the consumption of coal instead of wood is largely increasing as are also manufacturing industries of various kinds, with the result that within the city, even on the uppoer roads, it is difficult to get the pure air, exercise, and recreation that is essential for the preservation of health in this climate.
He then proposed that in the 60th year of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, that the 'Queen's Recreation Ground' be built, unde Ordinance, for the benefit of the public of Hong Kong. Also, if the 'harbour of refuge' [typhoon shelter] were ever to be reclaimed, that it be added to the proposed Queen's Recreation Road.

It took awhile, it was much smaller than expected, and the appended typhoon shelter was not added until after the War, but eventually Victoria Park was established, with the Statue of the Queen that once stood in Statue Square coming, by way of Japan (where it was almost melted down for scrap during the War) gracing its southern edge.

No comments: