THE FIRST AND THE EARLIEST
At first glance, it can be hard to imagine today’s ultra-modern Central as a place with much cultural history behind it. With a little careful attention, however, many traces of its rich and varied past reveal themselves. Pottinger Street itself is a prime example. Named after the first Governor of Hong Kong, Henry Pottinger, it still performs its age-old function of hosting specialty street stalls for local shoppers and, nowadays, international tourists. Standing proudly on this heritage street, The Pottinger Hong Kong makes an ideal starting point for a tour of some unique Central ‘firsts’ for Hong Kong:
FIRST CHINESE-OWNED DEPARTMENT STORE – SINCERE
Sincere was founded in the early 1900s by Mr. Ma Ying Piu, who had returned to Hong Kong from Sydney. He modelled the new department store after David Jones, one of the oldest department stores in Australia. In partnership with smaller clothing and appliance stores, Ma opened Sincere as the first Chinese department store in Hong Kong: unlike traditional stores, bargaining was not allowed and receipts were issued to customers.
ONE OF THE EARLIEST WET MARKETS IN HONG KONG – CENTRAL MARKET
Until 2003, Central Market was a bustling wet market: a site where all kinds of fresh meat and fish, along with fruit and vegetables, could be bought. In the 1960s, it was the biggest meat market in Southeast Asia. The striking Bauhaus style building, built in 1938, is currently awaiting redevelopment.
LONGEST OUTDOOR COVERED ESCALATOR SYSTEM IN THE WORLD – THE CENTRAL–MID-LEVELS ESCALATOR AND WALKWAY SYSTEM
The entire system runs for more than 800 metres and rises over 135 metres from bottom to top. Built in 1993, it links Hong Kong’s Central and Western Districts with Conduit Road in Mid-Levels. Travelling up its entire length takes around 20 minutes. Use the escalator to explore the exciting Mid-Levels hillside, where many wonderful shops and restaurants can be found.
FIRST POLICE STATION IN HONG KONG – CENTRAL POLICE STATION
The former Central Police Station was built in 1864, while the imposing former Central Magistracy building was completed in 1914. Alongside both is the former Victoria Prison, one of Hong Kong’s earliest Western buildings. Together, the three buildings represent law and order in Hong Kong, and are a vivid reminder of Hong Kong’s colonial heritage.
ONE OF THE EARLIEST CHINESE-STYLE TEMPLES – MAN MO TEMPLE
The Man Mo Temple, on Hollywood Road, was built in 1847. Worshippers visit the Temple to pray to the gods for progress in their careers, or satisfactory examination results. The Temple is now a declared monument of Hong Kong.
FIRST SUPERMARKET IN HONG KONG – DAIRY LANE
Hong Kong’s first supermarket was established in Central in 1960, when local meat and dairy products company Dairy Farm and Lane Crawford merged their food retailing operations. In 1964, the Dairy Lane supermarkets merged with Wellcome.
FIRST CAR IN HONG KONG
Hong Kong’s first car was owned by a dentist, Mr. Noble, in 1907. He drove from his home to his dental clinic in Central every day. The first Chinese person to own a car was Mr. Zhu, in 1910.
FIRST ROAD TO BE BUILT IN HONG KONG – HOLLYWOOD ROAD
Hollywood Road was built by the Royal Engineers in 1844 to link Central and Sheung Wan Districts. On its completion, Hong Kong had just two roads (Queen’s Road Central was the other one). Today, Hollywood Road is famous for its antiques shops.
FIRST PUBLIC CULTURAL CENTRE – CITY HALL
The first Hong Kong City Hall was built on land now occupied by the HSBC and Bank of China buildings; the current building, on a different site, was constructed in 1957. From the beginning, Hong Kong’s City Halls have been important public venues for cultural events, including major music concerts and local and international art exhibitions.