Central Market was a fresh food market in Central, Hong Kong. Located between Jubilee Street, Queen Victoria Street, Queen’s Road Central and Des Voeux Road Central, it was the first wet market in Hong Kong. By its side is the first public female toilet and first above-ground toilets in Hong Kong. It is one of two existing Bauhaus market buildings in Hong Kong, the other one being Wan Chai Market.
The building underwent a major works project to rehabilitate the structure and regenerate the market. Led by the Urban Renewal Authority, the project is intended to retain the original characteristics of the building. The newly-renovated building was opened to the public on Monday 23rd August 2021, and contains a mix of small shops, eateries, and public areas. Some of the original market stalls have been retained and refurbished, as have the impressive staircases at either end of the building, which is now managed by Chinachem.
The precursor of the market was Canton Bazaar, which was established in 1842 on Queen’s Road Central between Cochrane Street and Graham Street. In 1843, it was also known as the Middle Bazaar. The Chinese population were later forced to relocate from Central to the Tai Ping Shan area due to a series of fires. The market was then replaced by residential houses for Europeans. The bazaar was moved to Queensway, where the present-day High Court stands. It housed Chinese furniture dealers, joiners, cabinet makers and curio shops. Due to its proximity of Naval Yard and the construction of cantonment, the bazaar, shops and civil tenement had to be moved. In the 1850s, it was moved to its current location on Des Voeux Road (then known as The Praya). Its name also changed to Central Market (中環街市).
The market was rebuilt in 1858, then completely replaced with a Western marble structure in 1895. The rebuilt market was a three-storey Victorian-style structure with a tower in the middle.
The market was demolished again in 1937, this time replaced with a Bauhaus structure. Construction was completed in 1938, and cost HK$900,000. The market re-opened on 1 May 1939.
During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong between 1941 and 1945, the Chinese name of the market was changed from 中環街市 (chung wan kai shi) to 中央市場 (chung yeung shi cheung). The Chinese name displayed at the Des Voeux Road Central entrance was not restored until 1993. Central Market was the biggest meat market in Southeast Asia and the then-Governor of Hong Kong David Trench made a visit to the market in 1967. The importance of the market attracted another Governor Alexander Grantham to pay another visit.
In 1994, the western part of its second floor was converted into the Central Escalator Link Alley Shopping Arcade, an access way between the Central Elevated Walkway and Central–Mid-Levels escalators. It was managed by the Urban Council until its dissolution in 1999. The market was then closed in March 2003.
The market is housed in a 4-storey reinforced concrete structure, and contains 200 booths inside. The market is spacious with a central court, high ceiling and window walls for natural light and ventilation. There are two entrances of the market. The Des Voeux Road Central entrance is on the ground floor while the Queen’s Road Central entrance bridges the first floor. In the early days, the root floor were offices and quarters of hygiene inspectors and other staff.
The building is largely abandoned with few stores along a renovated pedestrian corridor inside, Central Escalator Link Alley Shopping Arcade (中環購物廊). The corridor is linked by two footbridges to Hang Seng Bank Headquarters Building and Central Elevated Walkway, and another footbridge to the Central–Mid-Levels escalator. Shops in the arcade include tailors, cleanser, collectors and other trades. On Sunday, one side of the corridor is a popular gathering place among Filipino domestic workers.
Prior to the redevelopment, the building was temporarily redecorated on the theme of Central Oasis.
The building is currently undergoing significant works for preservation and revitalization, including major rehabilitation to the ageing building structure. This is being overseen by the Urban Renewals Authority. The pedestrian corridor continued to provide access through the site during the majority of the redevelopment works.
The Central Market is due to reopen in the third quarter of 2021, operated by the Chinachem Group on a ten-year lease.
I visited there on Sep 2, 2021 with Leica MP and T Max 400. The film was shot at EI400 and processed in T Max Developer 1:4 at 24C for 5’30”. The film was scanned by Nikon LS9000ED.