A beautifully preserved historic Italian renaissance mansion on The Peak with a profusion of architectural details in baroque fashion. Sounds too good to be true? And it was, an embarrassed Antiquities and Monuments Office discovered recently after proposing historic status for it. The original mansion was demolished in 1990, making the present building less than 20 years old. The mistake could have been avoided if the monuments office had checked building records, which would have shown the original 1940s building had been redeveloped. The mansion at 15 Middle Gap Road, Wan Chai, is owned by tycoon Michael Jebsen, who is chairman of Jebsen & Co. Jebsen, who lives in the mansion with his family, could not be reached for comment yesterday. The executive secretary of the monuments office, Tom Ming Kay-chuen, said yesterday the office had decided to withdraw its proposal to declare the building a grade-two historic site. 'Our staff were looking at its appearance [and thought it was heritage]. They found no building plan was recorded in the Land Registry,' he said. 'But then after the owner sent us an objection against our proposal of grading, we learnt from the Buildings Department the original building had been demolished.' The erroneous monuments office assessment says the house was built in 1948 to 1950 in the Italian Renaissance style: 'The house displays an elaborate profusion of architectural details in baroque fashion, including a curved portico, a canted bay, arched windows, balustraded balconies... This elegant mansion house is a rare piece of architecture and should be regarded as having considerable built heritage. It is well-maintained ... and is believed to retain much of its original appearance.' Antiquities Advisory Board member and architectural conservationist Dr Lee ho-yin said the mansion was so well modelled after the classical style that he was also mistaken. 'The columns were so properly arranged and the proportions were so right that, on first look, experts could have been fooled,' Lee said. According to conservationists in the field, the building survey was conducted by former contract staff recruited by the office a few years ago to assess a pool of about 1,000 potential heritage sites. The staff were fresh university graduates with majors in history or surveying. It was also not the office's normal practice to check all sites with the Buildings Department, unless there was doubt. A member of the expert panel that vets the monument office's assessments and proposed gradings, Anthony Siu Kwok-kin, said the panel usually relied on photos and written records to give gradings and did not visit all the sites, because of time limitations. Antiquities Advisory Board chairman Bernard Chan said another reason behind the mistake was office staff had no right to enter private buildings and they had to make observations from outside. 'They may have to rely on hearsay,' he said. Some graded heritage blocks in rural New Territories had also been found to have been demolished, he said.