Peak of power comes with natural advantages

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 December, 2009, 12:00am

It has been at the pinnacle of luxury living for more than a century - an address that has been home to some of Hong Kong's most influential figures and the setting for some of its most historic moments.

It was in the early years of the 20th century when Hong Kong's professional elite, looking for an escape from the rapidly developing city, turned their attention away from the harbourfront to the area around May Road on the slopes of The Peak.

It had everything they were looking for in a place to set up home. It was close enough to the business centre to make it convenient for those who worked there, yet far enough away to be an oasis of peace and tranquility, a green and pleasant retreat set against a backdrop of lush natural vegetation on the hillside.

There was also the spectacular panoramic view that met their gaze: a view that from their vantage point, 170 metres above sea level, stretched over the rooftops of the commercial hub of the city, out across the picturesque harbour dotted with junks, to Kowloon and then further still to the mountains beyond.

It was indisputably one of the best views on Hong Kong Island. So much so, that one of those first settlers decided living there would be comparable to being in one of the best seats in a theatre. It was like being seated in the Dress Circle.

From then on the area around May Road and nearby Tregunter Path became known as Hong Kong's Dress Circle. It was the place where the cream of the professional community - then called taipans - and their families could enjoy a good life in their rooms with a tremendous view.

Throughout the changes, the Dress Circle residents continued to enjoy their views.

They watched from the best seats of the house as the spectacular vista in front of them changed, just as theatre-goers watch the changes between scenes.

The residences in this exclusive neighbourhood changed too. In the early days, May Road was lined with mansions and luxurious bungalows. But as fashion changed, so too did the homes in the Dress Circle.

In 1934, the government built two apartment blocks on May Road to house its civil servants.

As the years passed, roads were built and widened to accommodate cars, and electric lampposts were installed.

More towering, yet equally luxurious, residences rose on the sites of the original mansions, often bearing the names of the buildings they replaced.

The arrival of electricity added the special effects to the Dress Circle view of the city and harbour below, turning it into a spectacular show of lights for the residents to enjoy every night.

Some things, however, remain unchanged.

The unique character and reputation of the Dress Circle as being the place to live has held steadfast throughout the years.

Residences in the area - with its lush-green vegetation and wildlife - have flourished with demand for homes there being as healthy now as it was 100 years ago.

Likewise, that dramatic backdrop of trees, plants and foliage expanding back from Tregunter Path up The Peak remains untouched by development and is as wild and fascinating as it was a century ago.

There are individuals, couples and families who love the convenience of having Hong Kong's business and main shopping centre close at hand, but at the same time value the natural and open space-feeling created by the spectacular backdrop of natural vegetation and lush foliage just a stone's throw away.