Hong Kong’s Blue House

Geoff Stringer / Lonely Planet Images

A historic house helps preserve what remains of old Hong Kong.

A four-story building at 72–74A Stone Nullah Lane in Hong Kong’s gentrifying Wan Chai district stands out amid the gleaming new skyscrapers, chic restaurants and luxury apartment towers. Better known as the Blue House for its bright paint job, this 1920s tenement, architecturally distinctive for its cantilevered balconies and ironwork railings, is a tribute to working-class life in the former British territory.

Now classified as a Grade 1 historic building by the government, the Blue House is part of a $10.2 million project to preserve and revitalize what is left of old Hong Kong in this district—and the goal is to achieve this through more than just restoring the building. To help nurture this traditional community, new rental apartments will be constructed, with residents expected to volunteer, acting as tour guides and publicists for the neighborhood. Plus, the recently opened Wan Chai Livelihood Place, on the Blue House’s ground floor (that, since the 1950s, has housed everything from a martial-arts school to an osteopathy clinic still in operation today), will undergo an expansion to provide more exhibition space to honor the area’s cultural history, including handicrafts and culinary workshops. The Blue House is a rare surviving example of the humble life ordinary folks worked so hard to transcend, propelling Hong Kong into becoming the megacity it is today.