Nam Koo Terrace

Nam Koo Terrace

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Nam Koo Terrace is a Grade I Historic Building located at No. 55 Ship Street
Ship Street, Hong Kong
Ship Street is a street in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. It starts from Johnston Road, crosses Queen's Road East and goes uphill southward and reaches Kennedy Road. Part of the street is ladders and much of the century old buildings are abandoned. Locals often refer to these buildings as the "Ghost...

, Wan Chai
Wan Chai
Wan Chai is a metropolitan area situated at the western part of the Wan Chai District on the northern shore of Hong Kong Island, in Hong Kong. Its other boundaries are Canal Road to the east, Arsenal Street to the west and Bowen Road to the south. The area north of Gloucester Road is often called...

, Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

, popularly known as "The Wan Chai Haunted House". The building is currently owned by Hopewell Holdings
Hopewell Holdings
Hopewell Holdings Limited ,, established on 17 October, 1972], is a Hong Kong-listed infrastructure and property firm headed by Sir Gordon Wu.-History:It was listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong in 1972....

, a large property development company based in Hong Kong.


The two-storey red brick building was built in c.1915-1921 and owned by a wealthy Shanghai merchant family by the name of To (杜).

Prominent Hong Kong businessman To Chun-man (杜仲文) first leased the land lot where the building now stands in 1915. At this stage To Chun-man held the position of Chief Chinese Silks Salesman (專理紗羅綢緞員) for Wing On Company Limited (永安有限公司), although he was later promoted to Assistant Manager (副司理). He also held several posts in various community committees including that of Secretary (司理) for the Commercial Chamber of The Heung Shan District (香邑僑商會所), and was a member of The Chinese General Chamber of Commerce (華商總會).

However, To Chun-man was forced to evacuate the mansion at the onset of the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong
Japanese occupation of Hong Kong
The Japanese occupation of Hong Kong began after the Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Mark Young, surrendered the territory of Hong Kong to Japan on 25 December 1941 after 18 days of fierce fighting by British and Canadian defenders against overwhelming Japanese Imperial forces. The occupation lasted...

, and he died soon after his return. It is said that during the occupation, Nam Koo Terrace was used as a military brothel or "comfort house (慰安所)" for the Japanese soldiers from 1941 to 1945. Many other properties within the Wan Chai area were also used as brothels by the Japanese military during this period, including St. Luke's College and neighbouring Tung Chi College
Tung Chi College
Tung Chi College was a private Chinese secondary school located at No. 15, Kennedy Road, in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. The building has been mostly demolished.-History:...


Nam Koo Terrace continued to remain under the ownership of the To family until 1988, when the property was sold to YUBA Co. Ltd..

Hopewell Holdings took over ownership of the building in 1993, which was initially acquired to be demolished in order to make way for their Mega Tower hotel project (Hopewell Centre II). However, the site has stood vacant since then; despite the fact that the company's development proposal gained Government approval in 1994. While Hopewell Holdings remains the current proprietor of Nam Koo Terrace; recent public announcements indicate that their intentions have now shifted to the preservation, rather than the demolition, of this historical site. See: Preservation

Wan Chai District

The Wan Chai district was one of the earliest developed areas on Hong Kong Island
Hong Kong Island
Hong Kong Island is an island in the southern part of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. It has a population of 1,289,500 and its population density is 16,390/km², as of 2008...

 after the first land sale in 1841, where property lots were sold to various firms and individuals. The area soon became a hub of commerce and industry, closely linked with the shipping business along the waterfront during the 19th century.
However, due to the acquisition of the Victoria Barracks
Victoria Barracks, Hong Kong
The Victoria Barracks were a barracks in the Admiralty district of Central on Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong. The barracks were constructed between the 1840s and 1874, and situated within the area bounded by Cotton Tree Drive, Kennedy Road and Queensway, Hong Kong. The Barracks with Murray Barracks,...

 by the military in the 1850s, the shipbuilding business began a steady decline and the district turned instead towards residential development.

By 1845, the Wan Chai area (dubbed 'Spring Garden Lane
Spring Garden Lane
Spring Garden Lane is a street in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. It was one of the first focal areas developed by the British in the 1840s.-History:During the early development of Wan Chai, one of the focal area of development was Spring Gardens. The name was used by the British during the early Colonial...

' (春園街) during this period after opium merchant John Dent's personal villa) had been transformed into an exclusive residential district for privileged European businessmen.

Neighbouring Heritage Sites

Geographically speaking, Nam Koo Terrace is in relatively close vicinity to several other properties ranked by the Antiquities Advisory Board
Antiquities Advisory Board
The Antiquities Advisory Board is a statutory body of the Government of Hong Kong created in 1976 to evaluate old buildings in Hong Kong, and to recommend those with historical or architectural merit for listing as monuments. It is under the responsibility of the Home Affairs Bureau, directly...

. No. 18 Ship Street, the Blue House
Blue House (Hong Kong)
Blue House refers to a 4-storey balcony-type tenement block located at 72-74A Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai. It is named for the brilliant blue colour painted on its external walls. It is one of the few remaining examples of Tong Lau of the balcony type in Hong Kong...

 at Nos. 72-74A Stone Nullah Lane
Stone Nullah Lane
Stone Nullah Lane is a retailing street in the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong island, Hong Kong. It intersects with Queen's Road East and is best known for its Wan Chai Market.One of the signs has now been defaced to 'Stoned Nuttah Lane'-See also:...

, Nos. 6, 8, 10 and 12 Burrows Street (石水渠街), Nos. 2, 4, 6, and 8 Hing Wan Street (慶雲街) as well as Nos. 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, & 11 Mallory Street (茂羅街) and Nos. 186, 188 & 190 Queen's Road East (皇后大道東) can all be found in the surrounding area.
Other sites of heritage significance, such as the Hung Shing Temple
Hung Shing Temple, Wan Chai
The Hung Shing Temple in Wanchai, Hong Kong is one of several temples dedicated to Hung Shing in the territory.-Location:The temple is located at located at Nos. 129-131 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai. Tai Wong Street West and Tai Wong Street East intersect with Queen's Road East across the street...

 on Nos. 129-131 Queen’s Road East and Wan Chai Market
Wan Chai Market
The Wan Chai Market was constructed in 1937. It is located at 264 Queen's Road East and Stone Nullah Lane in Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island. It is a Grade III Historic Building....

 (灣仔街市) on No.264 Queen’s Road East, are also situated within the locality of Nam Koo Terrace.

Nam Koo Terrace is accessible from Exit B2 of the Wan Chai MTR Station.


Nam Koo Terrace is a site of significant cultural and architectural heritage stemming from Hong Kong's Colonial Era. The building was designed as a European-style house in the 1910s when large private lots on the hillside below Kennedy Road
Kennedy Road, Hong Kong
Kennedy Road is a road in the Mid-levels on the Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong. Starting from Garden Road in the west, it goes past St. Joseph's College, Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre, Hong Kong Park and Hopewell Centre and ends at the junction with Queen's Road East near Morrison Hill in Wan Chai.At...

 were sold for real estate development.

Nam Koo Terrace is a two-storey mansion, incorporating strong elements of both Eastern and Western architectural styles.
As one of the more prominent villas in the Wan Chai District, Nam Koo Terrace covers over two hundred square meters of land. It is also referred to as the "red house" because the majority of the building's external wall is constructed from red bricks. Today, the building exists in a ruined state due to the effects of corrosion suffered during the Japanese invasion and ineffective preservation.

Design Features

As well as embracing the Colonial Eclectic style, Nam Koo Terrace also adopts Classical Revival and Italian Renaissance
Italian Renaissance
The Italian Renaissance began the opening phase of the Renaissance, a period of great cultural change and achievement in Europe that spanned the period from the end of the 13th century to about 1600, marking the transition between Medieval and Early Modern Europe...

 architectural features combined with traditional Chinese decorations and motifs. The red bricked outer wall of the building is considered to be one of the major features of its architectural construction. Besides the red brickwork; rusticated quoins, moulded cornice
Cornice molding is generally any horizontal decorative molding that crowns any building or furniture element: the cornice over a door or window, for instance, or the cornice around the edge of a pedestal. A simple cornice may be formed just with a crown molding.The function of the projecting...

s, and voussoir
A voussoir is a wedge-shaped element, typically a stone, used in building an arch or vault.Although each unit in an arch or vault is a voussoir, two units are of distinct functional importance: the keystone and the springer. The keystone is the center stone or masonry unit at the apex of an arch. A...

ed arches over the windows add to the uniqueness of the structure's architecture.

The use of ironwork
Ironwork is any weapon, artwork, utensil or architectural feature made of iron especially used for decoration. There are two main types of ironwork wrought iron and cast iron. While the use of iron dates as far back as 4000BC, it was the Hittites who first knew how to extract it and develop weapons...

 for the window grilles, balconies and entrance gate also provides the building with a certain ornamental aesthetic.

The façade facing the garden at the front of the property is simple and symmetrical in design, and consists of a curved colonnade
In classical architecture, a colonnade denotes a long sequence of columns joined by their entablature, often free-standing, or part of a building....

d porch and veranda similar to that of a temple portico
A portico is a porch leading to the entrance of a building, or extended as a colonnade, with a roof structure over a walkway, supported by columns or enclosed by walls...

. The Doric Order
Doric order
The Doric order was one of the three orders or organizational systems of ancient Greek or classical architecture; the other two canonical orders were the Ionic and the Corinthian.-History:...

 and Ionic Order
Ionic order
The Ionic order forms one of the three orders or organizational systems of classical architecture, the other two canonic orders being the Doric and the Corinthian...

 are both incorporated in the building's standing columns; while the main entrance gate, which is situated adjacent to the Ship Street steps, applies a combination of Greek
Architecture of Ancient Greece
The architecture of Ancient Greece is the architecture produced by the Greek-speaking people whose culture flourished on the Greek mainland and Peloponnesus, the Aegean Islands, and in colonies in Asia Minor and Italy for a period from about 900 BC until the 1st century AD, with the earliest...

 and Roman features.
On the rooftop, a pavilion
Chinese pavilion
.Chinese Pavilions are covered structures without surrounding walls and are a traditional part of Chinese architecture. While often found within temples, pavilions are not exclusively religious structures...

 has been built in traditional Chinese style
Chinese architecture
Chinese architecture refers to a style of architecture that has taken shape in East Asia over many centuries. The structural principles of Chinese architecture have remained largely unchanged, the main changes being only the decorative details...

. This pavilion, in addition to the position of the entrance gate and the asymmetrical building plan, suggest the influence of Chinese feng shui
Feng shui
Feng shui ' is a Chinese system of geomancy believed to use the laws of both Heaven and Earth to help one improve life by receiving positive qi. The original designation for the discipline is Kan Yu ....

 was incorporated in the original construction design.

Historical Status

In 1996, Nam Koo Terrace received the status of a Grade I Historical Building from the Antiquities Advisory Board in light of its historical and architectural importance in Hong Kong. As no evident alterations have taken place within the structure, Nam Koo Terrace has managed to retain its authenticity and is now considered a building of notable cultural value. However, the historical significance of the site has not always been acknowledged by the local community, and has thus fallen into disrepair over the years. Serious neglect has ultimately left the building in sufficient need of renovation.

Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance

As a Grade I Historic Building, unpermitted demolition or excavation of the Nam Koo Terrace site is strictly prohibited by Section 6, Part 1 of the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance
Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance
The Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance, in Hong Kong Law , was enacted in 1976 to preserve the objects of historical, archaeological and palaeontological interest and for matters ancillary thereto or connected therewith...

 (Cap.53); a legislative document administered by the Antiquities and Monuments Office
Antiquities and Monuments Office
Antiquities and Monuments Office was established when the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance was enacted in 1976, to preserve Hong Kong's monuments under appropriate protection....

 under the management of the Home Affairs Bureau
Home Affairs Bureau
Home Affairs Bureau is one of the policy bureaux of the Hong Kong Government.One of the important roles of the Home Affairs Bureau is to enhance liaison and communication with all sectors of the community including the Legislative Council and the general public.Tsang Tak-sing has been the...

 within the government's Leisure and Cultural Services Department
Leisure and Cultural Services Department
The Leisure and Cultural Services Department , often abbreviated as LCSD, is a department in the Government of Hong Kong. It reports to the Home Affairs Bureau, headed by the Secretary for Home Affairs. It provides leisure and cultural activities for the people of Hong Kong, which was also one of...


"(1) Subject to subsection (4), no person shall-
(a) excavate, carry on building or other works, plant or fell trees or deposit earth or refuse on or in a proposed monument or monument; or
(b) demolish, remove, obstruct, deface or interfere with a proposed monument or monument,

except in accordance with a permit granted by the Authority. (Amended 38 of 1982 s. 7)"

Hopewell Centre II Development Plan

On the 19th of November 2008, Hopewell Holdings issued a press release stating that it will be revising the development plan of its Hopewell Centre II; aiming to achieve more of a balance between “economic development and environmental protection” in the new proposal. Currently the total investment budget for the new centre is to be around HK$5 billion which will encompass a HK$400 million road improvement plan, widespread tree planting and a public park. The company believes the project will considerably enhance Wan Chai's commercial value upon completion in 2016.

Since the 1970s, Hopewell Holdings has attained many old buildings in the district to use as sites for this redevelopment. Although Nam Koo Terrace was not specifically featured in the development plan approved by the Town Planning Board in 1994; the company has pledged to restore the historic site together with the new Hopewell Centre project. Mr. Thomas Wu, Co-Managing Director of Hopewell Holdings, has stated that:

"There is an increasingly strong voice in the society calling for the conservation of heritage buildings and historic sites in Hong Kong. Hopewell Holdings has heard their opinions and has plans to conserve and revitalise Nam Koo Terrace, a Grade I historic building with 90 years of history.

Wan Chai Heritage Trail

Nam Koo Terrace is one of the initial 15 sites featured on the newly formed Wan Chai Heritage Trail
Wan Chai Heritage Trail
The Wan Chai Heritage Trail was launched on the 27th of September 2009. It was formed by the Old Wan Chai Revitalisation Initiatives Special Committee established by the Development Bureau in order to promote the local culture, history and architectural style of the Wan Chai District of Hong...

, which was launched on 27 September 2009 by the Old Wan Chai Revitalisation Initiatives Special Committee (OWCRISC). The trail's aim is to encourage visitors to examine the architectural and historical diversity on display in one of Hong Kong's oldest districts.


Colloquially referred to as a 'Haunted House
Haunted house
A haunted house is a house or other building often perceived as being inhabited by disembodied spirits of the deceased who may have been former residents or were familiar with the property...

', the mansion has been attached with a certain conjectural element of mystery and esoteric connotation.

The 'ghosts' of women, who are said to have died in the time Nam Koo Terrace allegedly served as a Japanese military brothel; are claimed to have been witnessed at several different points in the building. Accounts of hearing cries and screams from these said comfort women
Comfort women
The term "comfort women" was a euphemism used to describe women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.Estimates vary as to how many women were involved, with numbers ranging from as low as 20,000 from some Japanese scholars to as high as 410,000 from some Chinese...

, have long been circulated by the supernatural rumour mill and have subsequently furthered Nam Koo Terrace's reputation for being a place of paranormal interest.

People have also reported seeing "ghostly flames" in the house. However, as Nam Koo Terrace was frequented often by Hong Kong's squatting
Squatting consists of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied space or building, usually residential, that the squatter does not own, rent or otherwise have permission to use....

 community, these apparitions were most likely the result of actual fires lit by local vagrants using the site for shelter.

On the 30th of November 2003, Oriental Daily, as well as many other local Hong Kong newspapers; covered a story about a group of eight middle school students who attempted to stay overnight on the Nam Koo Terrace property. It was said the students wanted to catch a glimpse of the supernatural 'ghosts' that have long been rumoured to reside in the historical building. According to the report, three of the female students were seen to have become emotionally unstable, claiming to have been assailed by a ghostly visitant. Later, police sent the three girls to hospital to receive psychiatric treatment. In the days following, local people in Hong Kong thronged to Nam Koo Terrace en masse and the house continued to dominate the headlines of daily newspapers for some time.

See also

  • List of Grade I historic buildings in Hong Kong
  • History of Hong Kong
    History of Hong Kong
    Hong Kong began as a coastal island geographically located off the southern coast of China. While pockets of settlements had taken place in the region with archaeological findings dating back thousands of years, regular written records were not made...

  • Wan Chai
    Wan Chai
    Wan Chai is a metropolitan area situated at the western part of the Wan Chai District on the northern shore of Hong Kong Island, in Hong Kong. Its other boundaries are Canal Road to the east, Arsenal Street to the west and Bowen Road to the south. The area north of Gloucester Road is often called...

External links