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The Bridges Street Centre
Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong
Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong’s Bridges Street Centre is located in Sheung Wan on the western side of Hong Kong Island. Built in 1918 through the generous support of prominent members and community business leaders, the Centre was originally named “The Central Building” and served as the headquarters of the Association before 1966.
This six-floor building was constructed with a symmetrical design using red bricks and concrete as the major building materials and built in a style that emphasised simplicity. The building integrated Chinese and Western design elements and was well-equipped with advanced facilities for the time, including Hong Kong’s first indoor swimming pool to have both a cool and warm water supply and the first elevated wok-shaped running track in Hong Kong.
The Centre quickly became the main gathering place for local people during the early part of the 20th century. The famous Chinese writer Lu Xun lectured at the Centre in 1927 and the first-ever group wedding ceremony took place here in 1935. During the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941, the building was used for Hong Kong’s Air Raid Precaution Department and to accommodate refugees. In 2009, the Centre was declared a Grade 1 Historic Building and now provides rehabilitation services for the mentally disabled as well as a number of sports and recreation services
The Bridges Street Centre 100th Anniversary Celebration
115th anniversary Kick-off Ceremony
Date: 20 March 2016 (Sun)
Time: 10:00 a.m.-10:30a.m.
Venue: Tung Fong Street, Yau Ma Tei
Ms. Florence Hui Hiu-fai, SBS, JP, Under Secretary for Home Affairs
Mr. Lau Ming-wai, BBS, JP, Chairman of Commission on Youth
Prof. Roland Chin Tai-hong, BBS, JP, President of Hong Kong Baptist University
Ms. Wong Wan-Yiu, former Hong Kong cycling team member
Dr. Frank Cheng, President of Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong
Mr. Yau Chung-wan, Vice-president of Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong
Mr. Karl Lau, General Secretary of Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong
115th Anniversary Celebration Parade
Date: 20 March 2016 (Sun)
Time: 10:30 a.m.-12:30p.m.
Kick-off Ceremony: The Kick-off ceremony will be commenced at Tung Fong Street, right beside the head office of Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong at Waterloo Road.
No. of Participants: 1,550 people
The parade team: The parade, led by open top bus, mini cars and bicycles, will be started by uniform groups, school and educational teams, different groups, members and centres’ performance teams.
Parade route: Tung Fong Street—Nathan Road—Jodan Road—Canton Road—Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower
History of the Bridges Street Centre
The Founding of the Bridges Street Centre
Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong was founded in 1901. The Association’s first headquarters was a residential building on Des Voeux Road, Central. The initial goal of the Association was to improve the quality of life for everyone in Hong Kong by fulfilling a number of urgent educational and recreational needs. With the rapid growth in the numbers of both members and staff, in 1910 the Association decided to build a dedicated centre. Given the fact that Sheung Wan district was one of Hong Kong’s most prosperous places at the time, plus the fact that a YMCA student dormitory was already located on Bridges Street, the Association decided that this street was an ideal location for such a centre.
The construction of the Bridges Street Centre was funded by the YMCA of North America and supported by prominent members and business leaders in Hong Kong. In 1912, YMCA representatives participating in a youth meeting held at the White House in Washington D.C. remarked that Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong had no self-financed property. The group proposed offering a subsidy of USD 75,000 to Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong, on the condition that they must then raise a sum of USD 25,000 within five years.
After receiving the good news, the Association proceeded to organise fundraising efforts, inviting donations from all directors, honorary directors, local Chinese businessmen and existing members. Significant donations were made by Mr Ma Ying Piu, the founder of Sincere Department Store; Mr Kwok Lok, the co-founder of Wing On Department Store; Mr Wu Ting Fang, the first Chinese member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong; Sir Kai Ho, the first Chinese person to receive a British knighthood; Dr Li Shu Fan and numerous others. The Sun, one of the top four Chinese-funded consortiums, and several foreign-funded enterprises such as the former Sassoon Group and Mitsui and Co. also made substantial donations.
According to the YMCA archives, Mr Huang Mou-lin, the president of Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong at the time, pledged to donate one thousand dollars (one-fifth of his assets) to support the building project. In response to the fundraising call, further donors stepped forward, like property tycoon Mr Lam Woo, who donated $3,000; and Mr Ma Ying Piu and Mr Au Ban, who each donate $2,000 respectively. Through the generous support of these prominent members, the Association raised a total of USD 25,000. In another positive development, the Association then successfully negotiated with the government to reduce the purchase price of the lot on Bridges Street to USD 25,000.
The construction of the six-storey building, covering an area of 10,800 square feet, commenced in 1915. Designed by American architects Shattuck and Hussey, the construction was executed by a local developer, Mr A.R.E. Rewen. The building was designed in a classic colonial revival style, with red bricks and concrete as the predominant building materials, since reinforced concrete was in wide use at the time. These elements have since become iconic features of the Centre.
The building is a large and rectangular with a flat tiled roof and a symmetrical façade. Chinese features like green glazed tiles and memorial archways are found throughout the structure. Upon completion, the six-storey building was equipped with a wide range of features and facilities, including an assembly hall, a social room, a café, a small lecture hall, a fitness room, a dormitory, a kitchen and a dining hall, a library, a swimming pool, changing rooms, a Chinese language day school and a commerce-related evening school.
The foundation stone for the Centre was laid by the Bishop of Victoria, the Right Rev. C.H. Lander D.D., on 10 February 1917. After two years and eight months of construction and fit out, the Central building was completed and was officially opened by the Hon. Claud Severn, C.M.G. on 10 October 1918. Immediately afterwards, the Association held a five-day celebration, with celebratory speeches, gymnastics performances, concerts, a lantern carnival and several open days. In total more than 23,000 people visited the Centre over the five days.
Two maxims are engraved in Chinese on the cornerstone of the building: “Willing to serve the public” and “One salvation for all peoples”. These are displayed above and below the ring-shaped emblem on the stone, representing the integrity and the unity of life. The inner ring represents the Association’s oath and our members’ friendship and love for the world, while the XP, the earliest form of the Christogram, is an abbreviation of the Greek Chi Rho, meaning “Christ”. The outer part of the red triangle emblem represents the Trinity, while the inner portion represents the human spirit, mind and body.
When it was unveiled, the Central Building was home to the first-ever Chinese-style hall for local Hongkongers, along with several new recreational facilities like an indoor swimming pool and the first elevated wok-shaped running track in Hong Kong. At the time, these facilities were considered modern and cutting edge, and helped promote a society-wide campaign to boost people’s health known as “survival of the fittest”. In the first 70 days after the Centre was opened – between 23 October 1918 and 3 January 1919 – a total of 1,557 fitness room users, 730 swimming room users and 1,557 shower room users were recorded, an indication of how well the Centre was received by the public. After the opening, the number of Association members grew to 2,068 and 10,419 people participated in various post-opening events.
In the early 20th century, there was a dearth of large assembly halls in Hong Kong where large-scale speeches, gatherings or art exhibitions could be held. Since the Central Building was both large and well-equipped, many important activities of the day were held on the premises.
Two of the most famous events that took place here were the lectures delivered by notable Chinese writer Lu Xun, who was invited by the Association and the University of Hong Kong to speak on the topics of a “voiceless China” and how “the old way of writing and speaking is coming to an end” on 18 and 19 February 1927. His speeches promoted the written Chinese language and literary reform. According to records, the events attracted a full house with over 600 people in the audience. Today, these lectures are hailed as the starting point of language reform in Hong Kong as well as a significant event in the history of Chinese literature.
The first-ever collective wedding ceremony in Hong Kong also took place in the building’s assembly hall on 15 February 1936. To steer society away from the existing custom of extravagant and wasteful weddings and promote a new concept – the “frugal wedding” – this group wedding as held at the Central Building. Celebrities of the day were invited to share tips on how to maintain a healthy marriage and a good relationship with their in-laws, while information on birth control was also given out. Mr Au Wai Kok, President of the Shanghai Commercial Bank along with the President of Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong chaired the event; while Sir Shouson Chow, the first Chinese member of the Executive Council, acted as a witness for the 11 couples. The ceremony itself was conducted in front of over 500 spectators. And also, a conference organised by the Anti-Slavery Society was held in the Central Building on 26 March 1922.
Since the Association actively promotes youth services – both in the early years and today – sports facilities were a crucial feature of the Central Building. At the beginning of 20th century, physical fitness was not a high priority for local people in Hong Kong. To change this prevailing mind-set and promote “physical education to make Chinese people more fit”, the designers and architect made sure to equipt the Central Building with numerous sports facilities like a basketball court, Hong Kong’s first indoor swimming pool and an elevated wok-shaped running track.
The building’s indoor swimming pool is heated in the winter and was used as a venue for swimming classes from the outset. In 1930, the Association founded its first swimming team; subsequently, we joined the Sports Federation and the Olympic Committee of Hong Kong and became a founding member of the Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association.
The basketball court included an elevated wok-shaped wooden running track, with fitness equipment for members located in each of the four corners. The overhead indoor running track was designed by American architects who got their inspiration from all-weather jogging tracks used in winter weather conditions in the U.S and Europe. The wok-shaped design is similar to the cycling tracks in modern velodromes – the tracks’ bowl shape helps maximise the speed of athletes.
Hong Kong’s first classes in First Aid were offered by the Association beginning in 1908. While these initial classes were led by a foreign medical practitioner; we later joined hands with St. John's Rescue Team to form the “Hong Kong St. John Ambulance Brigade Hong Kong Youth Rescue Division”, also known as the Youth Rescue Division. Over the years, the Youth Rescue Division spared no effort to serve the community; during the Shanghai incident of 1932 and the Japanese Invasion of 1941 in particular, the Division shouldered heavy responsibilities. Youth members were even deployed to defend certain positions during battles which occurred during the invasion. The Central Building also served as the headquarters of the Air Raid Precaution (ARP) Department during the Second World War, with the swimming pool even being drained at one point to provide a resting place for ARP volunteers and refugees from aerial bombing. Thousands of residents of Central and Sheung Wan stayed here and received assistance from the staff members during this time.
During the Second World War, we also joined hands with six major Christian groups in Hong Kong to organise refugee relief teams which provided clothing for refugees and others in need. Later, the YMCA War Service Team was set up to provide medical services to wounded soldiers on the frontline; the Team also set up a support station to promote greater military-civilian cooperation.
One of the Team’s members, Mr Lai Cho Tin (1921-1994), the father of renowned Hong Kong composer Mr Lai Siu Tin, joined the “Tsing Ping Society” established by the Association after he settled in Hong Kong as a teenager. During the Japanese Invasion, Mr Lai Cho Tin served as the Tsing Ping Society Choir’s conductor and taught young people how to resist the Japanese occupation through music. In March 1939, the Association held a large-scale performance at Blake Garden in Sheung Wan, with Mr Lai Cho Tin acting as the event’s conductor. After high school, he joined a YMCA military service group set up to motivate the British Army on the front lines while promoting an anti-Japanese campaign behind the front.
During the War, the Association continued to develop and offered different types of support to local people. On 24 February 1938, the Association, the HKYWCA and The Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong jointly organised the first domestic product exhibition, which later became the renown Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo. During the Japanese Occupation, which ran from 1941 to 1945, the Central Building was under the control of the Japanese government. Courses in Japanese and German were taught here and all other activities were suspended. During this time, the Association focused only on the provision of medical services.
After the Japanese surrender in 1945, the Central Building resumed its ministry services; in 1948, the building hosted a seven-day event called the Export Products Expo Fair; over 60 booths were set up in the building’s assembly hall and fitness room.
Hong Kong society changed rapidly in the 1950s and 1960s. To cope with the urgent and evolving needs of the community, the Association raised funds for four major construction projects in the early 1960s: a community centre, the Chinese YMCA Secondary School, our Waterloo Road premises and a sports stadium. Upon completion of the Yau Ma Tei Centre in 1966, the Association officially moved its headquarters to No. 23 Waterloo Road and the Central Building was renamed the Bridges Street Centre.
While no longer the main headquarters of the Association, the Bridges Street Centre continued to play an important role for residents of Central and Sheung Wan throughout the 1960s and beyond. The staff of the Centre mainly focused on working with street children and teenagers, and providing kindergarten education services.
Since the Bridges Street Centre was also known as “the cradle of Hong Kong sports and swimming”, many of the territory’s elite athletes spent time here. In 1954, 12 members of the Association’s swimming team were selected to represent Hong Kong in the Far East Olympic Games. In 1964, two members of our swim team were selected to participate in the Olympic Games in Japan. In 1967, our swimming team won both the men's and women's championships in the Hong Kong Winter Swimming Competition, and all prizes in the women’s group in the famous Cross-Harbour Swim. The Chinese YMCA swim team was also crowned champions in both the men’s and women’s group at the Hong Kong Open Swimming and the Hong Kong Chinese Amateur Swimming competitions.
Over the years, there have been a number of restoration projects carried out on both the interior and the exterior of the Bridges Street Centre. In 1985, the government of British Hong Kong announced that it would withdraw funding for the Bridges Street Centre, triggering a potential crisis. This was exacerbated in the same year when the government’s Works Bureau insisted that the Centre be demolished as the annual maintenance costs were too high. However, the Urban Council’s Cultural Relics Protection Unit felt that the Centre should be preserved and listed as a cultural relic. The Centre was accorded Grade II and Grade I status by the Antiquities Advisory Board in 1981 and 2009 respectively.
The government then changed course and decided to transform the Centre into a sheltered workshop and hostel for the mentally handicapped, with part of the building still used for youth services. This plan was executed with the assistance of Mrs Lam Chun Sheung, the Deputy Director of the Social Welfare Department; Mr Ko Hon Chiu, the Chairman of the Central and Western District Council; and Mr Wu Chor Nam, the Chairman of the Central and Western District Committee. Under the agreement, the Central Building was preserved and, after approval from the Social Welfare Department, rehabilitation services for the mentally disabled were added to the list of services available at the Bridges Street Centre.
In 1993, the Association received a grant of HKD 10 million from the Social Welfare Department to establish our “Home of Love Hostel” and “Home of Love Sheltered Workshop” on the ground and second floors of the Centre. The hostel and workshop provide employment opportunities, rehabilitation services, counselling, recreation and accommodation for the mentally disabled.
The original assembly hall and sports stadium were converted into sheltered workshops which can accommodate 170 people; on the second floor lie 50 bed spaces for moderately mentally disabled people. The café on the ground floor near the fireplace is currently used to provide on-the-spot work environment training for shelter workers, while serving snacks and beverages to members and the public.
For over a century, from its beginnings as the Central Building to today’s Bridges Street Centre, the Association has provided a wide range of sports, education, counselling and physiotherapy services to the people of Central and Sheung Wan. In the future, the Bridges Street Centre will continue to adhere to the Association’s service objective of “to serve, not to be served” – providing a diversified and high-quality set of services to the community and continuing to move forward with the people of Hong Kong.
Video of BSC History
115th Anniversary Symposium
New Trends and Patterns on Volunteerism
14 October 2016 (Fri)
Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong Kowloon Centre - Multi-purpose Gymnasium
(6/F, Activity Building, 23 Waterloo Road, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon)
Ms. Florence Hui Hiu-fai, SBS, JP, Under Secretary for Home Affairs
Prof. Lui, Tai-lok, Vice President (Research and Development) of The Education University of Hong Kong
Ms. Sonya Fock, Founder of i-Action
Mr. Peter Chan, Chairperson of Youth Participation and Leadership Development (YPLD) Committee of Asia & Pacific Alliance of YMCAs
Social Service Sector, Education Sector and Tertiary Students
FREE (First-Come, First-Served)
2783 3379 / email@example.com
Deadline for Enrollment:
25 September 2016 (Sun)
Only available in Chinese
Only available in Chinese
必列啫士街（現稱必列者士街）是上環一條介乎城皇街與水池巷之間的街道，以署理律政司必列啫士（William Thomas Bridges）為名。街道不長，現擁有兩座歷史建築，最古老的一座是香港中華基督教青年會會所，為昔日華人主要的文化康樂活動場所。會所建於此區，反映了這是早年華人聚居的地方。
青年會會所和學校會所於1918年落成，樓高六層。它並非由華人建立，而是基督教青年會北美協會策劃。從會所大禮堂門口的捐款碑可見，建造費75,000美元由芝加哥的麥金覓先生（Mr. C. H. McCormick）和碧士東夫人（Mrs. W. E. Blackstone）捐出，另有182名本地居民和機構捐款購地，當中不少是赫赫有名的殷商士紳和洋行公司。他們的慷慨解囊令青年會迅速發展，在華人社區紮穩根基。
另外會所大樓也不是華人設計，而是出自芝加哥建築師樓Shattuck and Hussey的手筆。紅磚綠瓦，走火鋼梯置於建築物外部，具中西合璧的建築風格。大樓擁有多個香港之最，包括第一間華人會堂，設有第一座室內游泳池及第一條懸空鑊形跑道，並有室內運動場、餐廳和宿舍等，一應俱全。
1966年中華基督教青年會將總部遷往九龍，原有的會所改稱必列者士街會所，繼續用作青少年活動中心。外觀結構未有隨歲月而改變，外牆仍見「基督教青年會」六個中文字，展示20世紀初流行的美術字體。只是禮堂在1995年改為「必愛之家」庇護工場，外人不能隨意入內。2000年青年會中學亦搬家，分階段遷入天水圍。舊校舍於2004年關閉，其後給予國際學校Island Christian Academy使用。
中華基督教會公理堂必列啫士街另一座地標就是公理堂。美國公理會的喜嘉理牧師（Charles Robert Hager）於1883年來港，得溫清溪、宋梓榮等人相助，在必列啫士街2號租地設立佈道所和書館。同年冬天，孫中山來港就讀聖公會拔萃書室，在公理會領洗。其後他入讀中央書院，住在佈道所三樓宿舍。
Only available in Chinese
Only available in Chinese