Kan Choi (簡彩): Construction Pioneer and Owner of Man Hing Lane in Central
York Lo: Kan Choi (簡彩): Construction Pioneer and Owner of Man Hing Lane in Central
Left: Kan Choi; Right: ad for Choi Yuen Construction (both from the HKBCA yearbook, 1954)
Kan Choi (1907-1959) was one of the leading general building contractors in HK in the 1940s and 1950s and served as a director and honorary treasurer of the HK Building Contractors Association (HKBCA) and on the boards of numerous leading charitable organizations alongside many figures covered earlier in the group such as fellow contractors Chow Yau and Ching Chun-kau. He and his family also owned no 2, 4, 5 and 6 of Man Hing Lane (文興里), a street next to Aberdeen Street, Peel Street and Hollywood Road in Central which has become an alley filled with interesting graffiti and popular nightspots today.
A native of the Hoiping district in the Guangdong province, Kan Choi founded Choi Yuen Construction Company (彩元建築) in HK sometime in the 1920s and even back then its address was already listed as 2 Man Hing Lane (Xianggang Fali, 1929). Man Hing Lane had existed since the 19th century with records dating back to 1894 (Directory & Chronicle for China, Japan, Corea, Indochina). In 1950, Choi Yuen’s address was listed as 11 Amoy Street in Wanchai although it still had its workshop at 2 Man Hing Lane. (HKBCA yearbook, 1950). In September 1952, part of the three-story wooden tenement building at 6 Man Hing Lane which was leased out to laborers who were members of the Carpenters Guild collapsed but fortunately only one person was injured. (TKP, 1952-9-23) Later in the decade, 6 Man Hing Lane was home to one of the factories of May Sun Shoes Manufactory (see article) (HK Handbook of Commerce, 1958, 1960)
By 1954, Choi Yuen had moved from Amoy Street to 514 Jaffe Road in Wanchai. Aside from Choi Yuen, Kan Choi was also the proprietor of Yuen On Investment (源安企業, incorporated in 1954 and dissolved in 2003) and Kam Shing Cafe. (Gang Ao Wen Ren Lu, 1957) Outside of the construction trade, Kan was very active in the mid-1950s, having served as chairman of the Wanchai Kaifong Welfare Association, director of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals (1954-55), the Po Leung Kuk (1955-56), Hoi Ping Chamber of Commerce and vice chairman of the Pok Oi Hospital, Sze Yup Commercial & Industrial Society and the Kan Clansmen Association.
Kan Choi (first on the right) and fellow Pok Oi Hospital directors at a press conference in 1957. Left to right: Tang Ying-ki, Chan Yat-sun, Ching Chun-kau (see article), Kan. (WKYP, 1957-7-6)
Kan Choi (second from the left) with fellow directors of Po Leung Kuk in 1955. Left to right: Yeh Chun-cho (see article on HK Enamelware), Kan, Yeung Tai-fun, Chow Yau (see article), Kwan Yuk-chi, Hui Ngok (see article on China Bros Hat Mfg); James Wu, Hui Look-yip (Hui Ngok’s sister), Gan Geok-eng of Pak Fah Yeow, Hui Ki-pak, Wong Kwai (see article on Lee Man Rubber) (WKYP, 1955-4-7)
Obituary of Kan Choi in 1959 (KSDN, 1959-2-15)
At the peak of his career, Kan Choi became ill with liver problems in 1958 and his eldest son Kan Sik-kau (簡錫球, aka Phileas Kan), who went to Australia to study civil engineering in 1955 (WKYP, 1955-10-29), returned to be by his side. (WKYP, 1958-7-13) Sadly he never recovered and passed away in February 1959 at the HK Sanatorium. His funeral was attended by over 1000 guests from the many organizations he was involved with.
Kan Choi was succeeded by his eldest son Kan Sik-kau and Kan Sik-ming at Choi Yuen. As for his property holding in Man Hing Lane, No. 4 went to his wife, No. 6 went to Sik-kau and No. 2 and 5 were inherited by Sik-ming. Kan Sik-kau emigrated to the US in 1969 and his mother and brother carried on the construction business. While Mrs. Kan Choi was alive, there were plans to acquire No. 1 and 3 Man Hing Lane and combined with the family’s holdings to develop a larger building but the plans never materialized as the owners of No. 1 could not be located and the owner of No. 3 was asking for too much. In 1983, Kan Siu-kau acquired 4 Man Hing Lane from his mother Mrs. Kan Choi, who died in 1992 and Kan Sik-kau himself died in 1995 after which his holding of 4 and 6 Man Hing Lane were inherited by his wife Julia Tam.
Sources (other than those cited above):
This article was first posted on 11th May 2020.
Related Indhhk articles:
- The Hong Kong Excavation, Pile Driving and Construction Company Ltd and the Charles L Shank photograph album
- Tam Shiu-hong (譚肇康 1875-1961) – HK Construction Industry Pioneer and Supporter of Sun Yat-sen’s Revolution
- Cheong Hing Co/Cheung Hing Construction (祥興建造) – leading building contractor
- Wan Hin & Co (德榮建築) a.k.a. Tak Wing Construction
- The Hongkong Engineering & Construction Company Ltd 1922-1993
- Yan Kow (甄球) and Hip Hing Construction (協興建築)
- Lee On Construction (利安建築) and Lee On Realty (利安地產)
- Joy Fat Construction (再發建築) – Factory Building Pioneer
- The Cheung brothers and Cheong Lee Construction (昌利建築)
- The Lo brothers and Nam Sang Building Construction (南生營造)
- Ching Chun-kau (程振球) – Real Estate, Amusement Park and Resort Pioneer
- May Sun Shoes Manufactory (美新鞋廠)
- Hong Kong Enamelware Factory (香港搪瓷廠)
- The Hui family and China Brothers Hat Manufacturing Co. (中華兄弟製帽廠)
- Lee Man Rubber Manufactory (利民橡膠製品廠)