Restored mansion draws a crowd
King Yin Lei on Stubbs Road has never been so crowded. Upwards of 1,600 people visited the 74-year-old mansion yesterday for its first open day since its restoration.
A queue formed hours before the doors opened at 10am and when they finally did, visitors poured into the Chinese Renaissance building's gardens to begin a tour through time. Staff talked them through the architecture and history of the 1930s mansion, a rare example of an architectural style that blends local design tradition with modern construction techniques. All 20,000 tickets for the 10-day public viewing were snapped up in advance.
Siu Yam-cheung and Wong Sau-kuen arrived at 9.35am to prepare for their tour guide examination in May. 'It's a nice new tourist spot for both locals and foreigners,' Siu, 52, said. 'We need to conserve more historical structures like this, because they represent the unique history of Hong Kong.'
Siu enjoyed the main building most, because it showed the luxurious lifestyle of its original owners, while Wong liked the traditional furniture and appliances.
'It will be great to show the younger generation what people used in their houses in the past,' Wong said.
A 50-year-old visitor was impressed by the view from the balcony overlooking Happy Valley, Wan Chai and Victoria Harbour. 'It was nice walking around and taking photos casually here. There's not much chance to do so,' she said.
She is concerned what will become of the mansion. 'I hope it won't be as high-ended as The Pawn in Wan Chai,' she said, and saw it as a good spot for a coffee shop.
Another visitor, Chan Yuk-chun, 60, said she wanted to see the mansion's architecture. 'It's eye-opening to see the magnificence of it. It's great to see it restored, and it would have been a pity if it was demolished.'
She especially liked how the ceilings and rugs matched each other.
'It was very well thought-out when they built it, and greatly represented the tastes of the rich,' she said. Chan hoped the mansion could be used for educational purposes and open for visitors again.
The mansion, built by merchant Shum Yat-chor, was on the brink of being torn down by its third owner in 2007. The work was stopped amid public outrage, and the mansion declared a monument. The owner agreed to surrender the mansion in exchange for land nearby. Restoration began in 2008.