House Unlocks Hong Kong's Mariner Past

House Unlocks Hong Kong's Mariner Past

HONG KONG - While strolling through the forest of glass and steel towers that have taken root in this bustling world city, I discovered a “house.

Not an ordinary house, mind you. In fact, Hullett House doesn’t even look like a house – more a small colonial office building wrapped in stucco.

But for centuries, the building named after English scholar Richmond William Hullett that opened in 1881, was the most important “house” in this former British colony because it was home to the famed Hong Kong Royal Marine Police.

From its lofty perch on Canton Road atop Tsim Sha Tsui, the highest point on the Kowloon side – very near where the famed Star Ferry boats still dock - Hullett House afforded the Marine Police uninterrupted views of Hong Kong’s bustling harbour.

But as Kowloon expanded and after the Marine Police left in 1996 for more modern barracks, Hullett House got lost in the city’s growth – hidden from view for decades behind the shops and restaurants that had grown up around it.

Ironically, though, a new development helped bring this old heritage building back to life.

The refurbished Hulette House now sits at the base of the gleaming new hotel/office tower and the updated property incorporates high-end designer shops, a boutique hotel and some fine dining restaurants into its design.

Many of the Hullett House’s original rooms have been restored and the deep, colonnaded verandas, high ceilings, thick granite walls, arched entrances and polished stone floors that harkens back to a more gentile era in Hong Kong’s storied history have all been brought back to their original glory.

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Above: The Hullett House has a very illustrious history.


The open courtyard where the Marine Police held drills and parades is now filled with camera-touting tourists snapping pictures of the lofts where carrier pigeons once resided – their task was to carry messages between ship and shore in the days before two-way radio. The Mariner’s Rest, where pirates, smugglers and ruffians were detained, is now a pub that looks out on the old house’s rolling lawns – a lovely escape from the concrete jungle that surrounds it. The pub’s walls are lined with faded photographs from bygone days and the original cast iron fireplaces remain. The pub’s toilette is the most famous in Hong Kong – it was the city’s first flushing version.

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Above: Much of the old property was saved in the renovations.


The most visible link to the House’s mariner past is the Timeball Tower, from which a ball was lowered at precisely 1 p.m. each day, thus enabling masters of ships anchored in the harbour to check the accuracy of their chronometers that were important to ancient navigation. The main parlour where visiting dignitaries were greeted have been restored with antique furniture from that era and the lanterns that light up the room are truly lovely. From the Hullett House’s quaint veranda restaurant, you’re afforded a terrific view of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour and the city’s dramatic skyline. The five restaurants located in the Hullett }House project quickly fill up with locals hoping to capture some of Hong Kong’s old romance.

The House’s small intimate hotel is becoming a landmark location in which many visitors seek to sleep but if you don’t want to stay there, free tours of the property are offered and are very insightful. {mosimageHullett House is one of only four original government buildings left standing in Hong Kong and thankfully it has been preserved for future generations to enjoy.

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