The Antiquities Authority has declared the Signal Tower at Blackhead Point in Tsim Sha Tsui, the Race Course Fire Memorial at So Kon Po, and the facade of the Old Mental Hospital at Sai Ying Pun – famously known as the “High Street Haunted House” – as monuments under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance on Friday.
Under the ordinance, the Antiquities Authority may declare a location or building which needs proper preservation as a monument after consultation with the Antiquities Advisory Board. It will then, with the approval of the Chief Executive, publish a notice in the gazette.
The Old Mental Hospital at 2 High Street was built in 1892 and originally served as the Medical Staff Quarters of the Government Civil Hospital. It was converted into wards for mentally ill female patients in 1939, and an out-patient clinic for the mentally ill after the opening of the Castle Peak Hospital in 1961. Following its vacancy in 1971, the building became a popular spot with teenagers and drug addicts, and was later badly damaged by two fires that were said to have been started by trespassers.
The building was repurposed and became the Sai Ying Pun Community Complex in 1998, and its granite facade, which is in the style of early Baroque architecture, has been preserved. The nickname “High Street Haunted House” came about because the building is said to be the site of many ghostly sightings. Rumour has it that it was used as an execution hall by Japanese troops during WWII.
The Signal Tower in Signal Hill Garden at Blackhead Point in Tsim Sha Tsui was built in 1907 by the Hong Kong Observatory to house a timeball signalling device which was used to signal time accurately to mariners and the public.
The Tower, which is over 60 feet high, is built with a combination of red brickwork and light coloured stone, and has a heavy classical Baroque design with Edwardian features. Although the timeball ceased service in June 1933, the Tower is still a landmark in the area.
The Race Course Fire Memorial, which is located on the hillside above the present Hong Kong Stadium in So Kon Po near Causeway Bay, was erected in 1922 to commemorate the victims of a disastrous fire which broke out at the Happy Valley Racecourse in February 26, 1918.
The Memorial comprises two pavilions, a central memorial arch and a pair of pagodas. The architectural composition of the Memorial is said to feature both Western classical and traditional Chinese elements. The Chinese characters for “fortune”, “richness” and “long life” are inscribed on the central archway, while the plaques below bear the names of those who died in the disaster.
The Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance was enforced in 1976 to ensure that Hong Kong’s monuments are adequately protected. Aside from the three newly declared monuments, there are 108 buildings and structures listed under the ordinance in Hong Kong.