Lynhall Land Investment (聯合置業) – Real Estate Powerhouse from the late 1950s and early 1960s
York Lo: Lynhall Land Investment (聯合置業) – Real Estate Powerhouse from the late 1950s and early 1960s
Lynhall Land ad from 1958 featuring 7 of its properties that were available for sale that year (left to right): Majestic, Kingland, Hankow, Maylun, Phoenix, Lido and Mido(華僑日報, 1958-01-03)
From 1945 to 1960, the population of Hong Kong jumped sixfold from 500,000 to 3 million with the massive influx of refugees from the mainland and the related demand for housing created unprecedented opportunities for the HK real estate industry. During the real estate boom of the late 1950s and early 1960s, Lynhall Land Investment Co Ltd was one of the most aggressive participants, with advertisements promoting its many properties prominently featured in the papers every day and its founder Li Hong-chit (李康節, 1913-1989) earned the nickname of “King of North Point” (北角王) for his many projects in the district. When the Real Estate Developers Association of HK was founded in 1965, Li was one of its executive committee members, highlighting his stature as one of the pioneers of the HK real estate industry. While the firm had long faded into history as a casualty of the real estate bust in the late 1960s, many of its buildings are still standing today.
Left: Li Hong-chit as executive committee member of the HK Real Estate Developers Association in 1965; Right: Lynhall’s major backer Ho Yin (right) delivering a speech at a function. Standing next to him was his older brother Ho Tim of Hang Seng Bank.
According to his grandson Kevin Lee, Li Hong-chit was a native of Hetang (荷塘) in Xinhui in Guangdong province which is known for its lychee and longan. He was an alumnus of King’s College in HK and in 1957 donated HK$1000 towards the construction of the King’s College Old Boys Association Primary School (which was launched in 1960). He struggled in his early years to support his father who was an opium addict back in his home village but made his initial fortune through the import of penicillin in HK in his 30s.
In the mid-1950s, hundreds of real estate companies were formed and pioneers such as Henry Fok (霍英東, 1923-2006) of National Investment and K.C. Wong of Dah Yuan (see article) began to develop taller residential buildings (prior to that the standard was five stories and below) to meet the soaring housing demand. To make these units more affordable, payment by installments was introduced (prior to that buyers had to come up with all the cash at purchase) and to finance the construction, units were pre-sold (now a common practice in HK but was first invented by Fok in 1953).
According to the biography of Henry Fok by the author Ling Xia (who had interviewed Fok), Li Hong-chit came up with the idea to form a syndicate pooling money from various HK and Macanese businessmen to develop properties in HK and approached Fok to become a partner given his earlier success in the HK real estate market. As honorary chairman of the Kitchee Sports Club, Li was a friend of Henry Fok and had recruited Fok to head up the sports club’s football department in 1957. Fok disliked the syndicate concept but nevertheless subscribed as a passive shareholder in the new venture out of respect for Li’s biggest backer in the venture – Ho Yin (何賢,1908-1983), the brother of Ho Tim of Hang Seng Bank and a leading businessman from Macau who had made a killing in the lucrative gold trade in partnership with Y.C. Liang after the War (see article on YC Liang and HK Macao Hydrofoil). To reflect the syndicate nature of the firm, Li picked the name “Lian He” (聯合) which means “united” for its Chinese name and the English name of Lynhall which sounded like its Chinese name.
Lynhall was formed in 1954/1955 (a 1957 ad said 3rd anniversary sale and a 1964 ad said 9th anniversary sale) but it was not formally incorporated until January 1956 with HK$1 million in registered capital and the registered address of the firm was listed as the Fu House at 7 Ice House Street. Aside from Ho and Fok, Chow King (仇景) and Liang Chi-hao (梁基浩) were listed as subscribers and Chow was the proprietor of Yue Shing Estates (裕成置業, incorporated in 1962) and Tai Yau Ironworks while Liang, who also had business ties with Macau, was the proprietor of King’s Theatre in Central and father of TV executive and politician Selina Chow and Shun Fung Iron Works founder L.Y. Leung (see article on the De La Salas).
Left: article about Hillwood Apartments in 1956 (KSDN, 1956-6-20) Right: Peninsula Apartments
The first projects which Lynhall was involved with were not in North Point but across the harbor in Tsim Sha Tsui – the 7 story Hillwood Apartments (山林大廈) at 34-40A Hillwood Road and 11 story Peninsula Apartments (半島大廈) at 16 Mody Road, both of which were built in 1956. The latter was one of the first buildings in HK alongside Man Yee Building in Central and the HK Jockey Club to feature an escalator. (Kung Sheung Evening News, 1956-9-3)
Lynhall spent millions to acquire the site of the former Sky Room Night Club (天宮夜總會, operated by the Gray brothers) in North Point and built the 15 story Empire Apartments (璇宮大廈) at 293-299 King’s Road in 1956.
1957 and 1958 were the busiest year forLynhall, during which it built 7 buildings on both sides of Victoria Harbor (all shown in the ad in the beginning of the article): namely the 17 story Kingland Apartments (金輪大廈) at 737-741 Nathan Road and 11 story Hankow Apartments (漢口大廈) at 43-49A Hankow Road in Tsim Sha Tsui; 4 buildings in North Point – the 18 story Majestic Apartments (麗宮大廈) at 310-319 King’s Road, the 16 story Mido Apartments (美都大廈) at 330-332 King’s Road, the 18 story Maylun Apartments (美輪大廈) at 442-456 King’s Road and the Lido Apartments (麗都大廈) at 860-878 King’s Road across the street from the famous Ritz nightclub; and the 18 story tall Phoenix Apartments (鳳鳴大廈) 15-31, Hysan Avenue in Causeway Bay. As shown in the ads, most of these apartments were selling for around HK$20000 per unit and payments were allowed in 24 monthly installments.
Left: Article in 1958 promoting Lynhall’s Maylun Apartments in North Point (WKYP, 1958-1-16); Right: former Financial Services Secretary Franklin Ma revisiting his childhood home at Maylun Apartments with TV host Kenneth Chan Kai-tai.
In 1959, Lynhall turned its attention westward to Wanchai where it developed the 12 story Lee Tung Apartments (利東大厦) located at Lee Tung Street in Wanchai across the street from the present-day Hopewell Centre (WKYP, 1959-7-23). Later it built the 20 story Hennessy Apartments (軒尼詩大廈) at 48-52 Percival Street in Causeway Bay with the first three floors occupied by the mainland Chinese department store China Products Co and the 4th floor to Pak Fah Yeow. (WKYP, 1959-5-3)
In 1961, Lynhall developed the 10 story Wing Hong Industrial Building (永康工業大廈) on Wing Hong Street in Sham Shui Po and Rita House at 123-125 Leighton Road. In 1962, the firm completed Mui Fong Apartments (梅芳大廈) at 190-194 Des Voeux Road West in Sai Ying Pun and another residential building at 171-173 Hennessy Road in Wanchai. (WKYP, 1962-11-23)
Article about Lynhall’s Wing Hong Industrial Building and Leighton Road project in 1961 (WKYP, 1961-8-22)
Left:Lynhall’s ads for Hennessy Apartments, Maylun Apartments and Lee Tung Apartments in 1959 (WKYP, 1959-8-22) Right: Lynhall’s ad for Harilela Mansion in 1963 (WKYP, 1963-3-24)
In 1963, Lynhall continued its expansion in Kowloon and filed a lawsuit in the Kowloon District Court requesting court order for them to evict the tenants of 16 storefronts they acquired in Mongkok in the intersection of Shantung Street and Nathan Road for re-development. The affected merchants include King of Kings restaurant, Golden Gate Bakery, Ying Kee Tea Company, Peiping Shoe Store and others. (WKYP, 1963-5-22). It also built the Harilela Mansion (喜利大廈) at 81 Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, probably in partnership with the Harilela family.
Lynhall’s ad for its Ching Fai Gardens development in the Mid-Levels in 1964 (WKYP, 1964-12-15)
In 1963-64, Lynhall developed two projects in the Mid-Levels – No. 102 Caine Road and Ching Fai Gardens (清暉花園) at 123A Robinson Road which was the former site of the left-wing Chung Wah Middle School (中華中學).In 1965, projects listed in one of its ads included Po Shan Mansion at 10 Po Shan Road, Botanic Terrace (芝蘭台) at 3 Conduit Road (not completed until 1971) and Shui Heung Yuen Apartments (瑞香園大廈) at 41 Jordan Road in Kowloon.
Left: Lynhall ad of 102 Caine Road in 1963 (華僑日報, 1963-07-12); Right: Li Hong-chit (front row, second from the right) with fellow founding directors of the Real Estate Developers Association of HK in 1965. Front row left to right: Henry Fok, Stanley Ho, Gordon Wu, Cho Shiu-chung, Li Hong-chit and Fong Yun-wah. Back row left to right: Ng Tor-tai, Auyeung Sum, Samson Sun, Chan Chak-fu, Tarzan Hui Tat-sum, Cham Siu-leun, Lu Kao-hwa, Ip Man-shan
Left: Opening of Majestic Restaurant in 1957 from left to right: Wong Yu-choi (黃裕材), Li Hong-chit, chairman Lau Hang-chung (劉衡仲), Sir Shouson Chow (周壽臣), Cantonese opera star Ho Fei-fan (何非凡) and actor Cheung Ying (張瑛) (華僑日報, 1957-04-11); Right: Majestic Restaurant at its opening day – 1957 (uwants)
Aside from Lynhall, Li Hong-chit incorporated Luen Shing Estates in 1957 with $1.2 million in capital (dissolved in 1968) and Tai Yau Ironworks with $1 million in capital in 1960 (dissolved in 1973). He was also involved in the restaurant business through his investment in Majestic Restaurant (麗宮酒樓), a Chinese restaurant located at Lynhall’s property Empire Apartments in North Point which was operated by Macanese entertainment tycoon Lau Hang-chung (劉衡仲 d. 1969), who also worked for Ho Yin.
Left: Reception at the Paramount Nightclub in 1958, left to right: Ho Kin-cheung (何建章, editor of WahKiuYat Po), Yuen Yiu-hung (袁耀鴻, theater owner and movie producer), Li Hong-chit, Lau Hang-chung and Fok Keung (霍強) Source: 華僑日報, 1958-06-17;
Li Hong-chit was also involved with Lau in the Paramount nightclub and when his son Alan Li (李雅倫), married Inger, an Australian of Danish descent whom he met while studying civil engineering in Melbourne in 1961, the wedding reception was held at the Paramount which had over 1000 lunch guests and over 1000 dinner guests. (大公報, 1961-09-10).
During the banking crisis and real estate bust in the mid-1960s, the aggressive Lynhall went into financial troubles, a fate shared by many of the developers at the time. Lynhall closed its doors in 1968 when Li and Ho (who allegedly required the Chinese government to bail him out) ended their partnership. Lynhall as a firm however was not formally dissolved until 2001.
According to his grandson, Li loved to gamble and would easily bet HK$20000 (equivalent to the price of a residential flat) on each horse race in the 1950s and 1960s and often gambled at the VIP gambling clubs in Central as well. He was also a friend of Henry Fok and Stanley Ho, his fellow co-founders of the Real Estate Developers Association who offered him the opportunity to invest in the Macau gambling monopoly STDM but he declined as he thought it would bring bad luck to his family. In his later years, Li was heavily involved in supporting his hometown of Hetang in Xinhui prefecture. Even in the early years of the People’s Republic, Li had donated industrial supplies such as generators, electric wire, cars and tractors to his hometown. In 1964, he led the fundraising effort to purchase the clubhouse for HK Sun Wui Association (香港新會荷塘同鄉會), contributing $25000 of the $46000 raised. Starting in the early 1970s, he frequently returned to Hetang for visits and provided guarantees to HK compatriots who were doing the same. In 1979, he helped to raise HK$700,000 from fellow HK and Macanese businessmen to rebuild the Hetang Sanatorium (荷塘卫生院). He also organized several businesses in Hetang including a quarry, a garment factory and a cassette tape factory and organized fundraisers for the construction of the Overseas Chinese Building (侨联大厦, $418,000) in 1986 and establishment of the Hetang Vocational Secondary School ($1 mil) in 1987 despite of his ill health at the time. Like many businessmen of his time, he had a wife (mother of his son Alan Lee) and three concubines. Alan Lee worked for his friend Henry Fok’s Yau Wing Co before starting Harbour Engineering (to be covered) with his friends.
馮邦彥, 香港地產業百年, 2001
華僑日報, 1956-03-28, 1954-10-1, 1957-5-24, 1957-3-24, 1957-7-1, 1958-1-20, 1958-1-23
This article was first posted on 16th November 2018.
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