In the mid 19th century, Hong Kong employed a ‘Floating Police Station’ to patrol pirate activity, using a vessel named John Adams as its Marine Police Headquarters. However, in February of 1884, the John Adams caught fire. The government subsequently constructed the land-based headquarters on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront on Canton Road.
The compound consisted of a main building, stables, and a signal tower. The latter, commonly known as the Round House, was built as a navigation aid for ships. It provided time signals for mariners in the harbor until 1907, when the time ball was moved to Signal Hill in Kowloon.
During the Japanese Occupation (1941-45), the site was used as a navy base by the Japanese army. During this time, extensive underground tunnels were dug under the lawn. After World War II, the tunnels were blocked and the lawn was replaced with new turf.
In anticipation of the handover of sovereignty of Hong Kong from Britain to China, the site was vacated and handed back to the government by the Royal Police Force in 1996.
In 2003, the government launched a heritage tourism development project to restore and revitalise the site; as a heritage site and commercial tourist venue. Flying Snow Limited, a subsidiary of Cheung Kong Holdings, won a 50-year land grant for HK$352.8 million. The site was completed as a 12,000 square meter retail complex in 2009, and was renamed ‘1881 Heritage’. (It was not named 1884 because the number ‘4’ is seen as unlucky in Chinese culture, because it has a similar pronunciation to the word ‘death’.)
The redeveloped site now features luxury shops and upscale restaurants and bars, as well as a boutique hotel. Nonetheless, it contains a Heritage Hall dedicated to the site’s history. The hall links to a preserved underground bomb shelter that visitors can access. In addition, the time ball tower has been restored and the stables preserved.
📅 Free daily guided tours. Call +852 2926 8000 for enquiries and reservations.