15 Jun Kennedy Town Then and Now: Views Along the Tramline Throughout the Decades
The tram is one of the oldest and most used transportation services in Hong Kong! It has amazing stops in different neighbourhoods and at historical landmarks. In this article, I put together a series of photos that are recreations of old pictures of Sai Wan. The memories of those times live on today, and I wanted to preserve the history of the tramway through detailed recollections of people who have ridden the tram around Kennedy Town and Hong Kong. Scroll down to see the district’s drastic changes and surprising continuities, and how Kennedy Town has transformed from Hong Kong’s backyard to a loving home for all.
1. CATCHICK STREET, KENNEDY TOWN TRAM TERMINUS
The intersection between Catchick Street and Cadogan Street in the early 1900s and 2020.
This was the furthest tramway went. Right next to the line used to be an abattoir, which opened in 1894. The abattoir was demolished in 2009, and now there is a residential building called ‘The Merton’ in its place. As this was the end of the tramway, there was little development due to less demand. The expansion of Victoria Road further towards Wah Fu allowed for more warehouses and depots to be built. Around the Kennedy Town Terminus, you will find the infamous Cadogan Street Temporary Garden and the start of the waterfront that lines Sai Wan. It is now possible to walk all the way from Kennedy Town to Central along the waterfront, so taking the tram down to the western end and walking back can be quite fun! In place of what used to be slaughterhouses, warehouses for cattle and rice depots are now high-rise residential buildings and ground-floor shops and restaurants. While buildings may have been demolished, and more people moved to the Sai Wan area, Cadogan, Catchick and Forbes Street have always continued to bring the tram further west!
“I have lived in Sai Wan for 30 years. Back then it would cost $1 or less to ride the tram.”
— Mr Ng, warehouse owner in Kennedy Town
2. INTERSECTION BETWEEN CATCHICK STREET & NORTH STREET
Catchick Street in 1957 and 2020
A feature that has remained similar since 1957 is the location of residential housing above shops and markets. Ahead, you can see more residential housing. At the time, behind the buildings on the left, was the bay and little land was reclaimed. The tram tracks are actually one of the few constants in an ever-changing Hong Kong. In both photos, another constant that is worth noting is the shop signs. If you look around Kennedy Town today, you will still see shop signs hanging over the streets. The walls around the stores are also still covered in ads and signs to make each shop unique. Now, a lot of land around the street has been reclaimed to change the image of Kennedy Town from an unknown ‘Rubbish Bay’ to a new residential district that beckons foreigners to explore! The street has also decreased in width to make way for taller buildings around it.
“Our shop is literally on the tram track, so we didn’t have to think long about a name. We even painted the interior ‘tram green’.”
— Mark Brough, owner of The Tramline Liquor Co., Kennedy Town
3. PRAYA, SHEK TONG TSUI
The Praya in 1905 and 2020.
The photo shows the bay and the ferry that would take people to Mong Kok and other islands. Next to it is a police station, and the tram runs on the road. This road has transformed drastically over the years: land reclamation made it much wider. The bay is also further away from the tram. Did you know that before the 1980s, the tram tracks in Sai Wan were right at the edge of the waterfront? Today, residential buildings make up much of the environment around the tramway.
“People would run to catch the tram and sometimes they would trip… something interesting would happen every day right outside my shop.”
— Ms Chang, shop owner, Shek Tong Tsui
4. PRAYA, SHEK TONG TSUI
The praya in 1922 and today
On the left, you can see old government buildings. Note that there is little development along the road for other forms of transportation. The tram was a very important mode of transport as it used to be the only form of cheap transport in many places across Hong Kong. For people living in Sai Wan, it made economic sense to take the tram because of its cost and its convenient location.
“The tram is an integral part of many elderly in Sai Wan as it is easier and cheaper for them to take the slow tram.”
— Mr Ng, warehouse owner, Kennedy Town
I think that it is safe to conclude that Sai Wan is full of historical landmarks, even after going through a century of expansion and renovation. From a backyard to a booming market, Kennedy Town is definitely bringing out the big guns to the residential, commercial and tourism markets. The pictures tell us about the immense change Kennedy Town has gone through. The future of this wonderful little area is full of new immigrants and businesses looking to expand this town. However, one thing will remain the same as it has been for the past century, and that is K-Town’s tram tracks!
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY
Mudit is a student in Hong Kong and he has lived in Hong Kong for 6 years. He moved to Hong Kong with his family for work and he has just completed high school. His favourite things to do in Hong Kong are to play volleyball and badminton, eat dumplings and ride around HK on the tram.
iDiscover Neighbourhood Mapping & Storytelling Internship Project
This story is part of a 2-week iDiscover Internship Project. Under our mentorship, a group of recent high school graduates and undergraduate students unveiled the historical layers in three old Hong Kong neighbourhoods: Kennedy Town, Shek Tong Tsui and Sai Ying Pun. They learnt the stories of old streets, long-time residents and popular shopkeepers, and dived deep into the local culture and living heritage. Zooming in to neighbourhood level, the student interns set out to discover and analyse what makes this city unique, and published their observations in the form of blogs, vlogs, an app route, and a place identity report.
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