Sang Hop Construction Co. (生合建築)
York Lo: Sang Hop Construction Co. (生合建築)
Left: Sang Hop founder Kwan Mui (HKBCA yearbook, 1958); Right: Ad for Sang Hop Construction in 1950 (HKBCA yearbook)
Founded by Kwan Mui (關梅), Sang Hop Construction was one of the leading building contractors in Hong Kong from the 1940s to the 1960s responsible for many public and private projects. Based on Kwan Mui’s age, he started in the construction business in the turn of the century and Sang Hop as a firm was founded before the War as Sau-Ung Loo Chan (1906-2003), the first Asian woman to practice law in Hawaii and Yale Law graduate was legal advisor to the firm in HK from 1935 to 1940. Another Chinese American employee at Sang Hop was Parker Kwan, a 1930 civil engineering graduate of UC Berkeley who worked for the California Highway Commission and building airfields in Chungking and Kunming during the War before joining Sang Hop as construction engineer from 1949 to 1951. Parker Kwan later moved to Sandakan where he designed its Adventist Church, the Grand Stand for the celebration of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and courthouse and served as president of the Sandakan Rotary Club.
In 1948-49, Sang Hop completed the Victory House on Wyndham Street in Central at the cost of over $800,000. In 1950, Sang Hop was awarded the contract to construct the Morley Building on the site of the former Japanese War Memorial (chureito) on Mt. Cameron built by the Japanese in 1943. The project was completed within one year. Also in 1950-51, Sang Hop completed three staff quarters for HSBC at the cost of HK$3 million.
In 1951-52, Sang Hop built the third generation Jardine House on Pedder Street at the cost of HK$1.5 million. The 16-story building was designed by Palmer & Turner and was later replaced by the Wheelock House. In 1952-53, Sang Hop completed the Mercantile Bank Building at 7 Queen’s Road Central at the cost of HK$2.2 million.
In 1954, Kwan Mui incorporated Sang Hop Plumbing (生合潔具) to expand his business to the distribution of sanitary equipment with nominal capital of $200,000. The address of the plumbing business was listed as 473 Lockhart Road (next to Sang Hop’s office at 471) and his eldest son Kwan Hung-fook (關鴻福) who lived in the same address on Blue Pool Road in Happy Valley was also a shareholder. (FEER) Sang Hop also had a timber affiliate by the name of Shun Lee (順利).
In 1958, Sang Hop was awarded the contract to build the freight building at the Kai Tak Airport. The $1.9 million E-shaped building designed by architect Eric Cumine was repurposed as the temporary passenger terminal in 1959 before being replaced by the permanent terminal in 1962.
The Kai Tak freight building built by Sang Hop in 1959
In 1959, Sang Hop worked on the new courthouse at the intersection of Electric Road, King’s Road and Hing Fat Street in Causeway Bay but Kwan Mui was fined twice ($500 in December 1959 and $400 in February 1960 by the Central Magistrate for not following the Public Health Ordinance and took proper steps to mitigate the risk of mosquito breeding in still water on the construction site. (WKYP, 1959-11-26; 1960-2-27)
Left: Ad for Sang Hop Plumbing in 1954 (HKBCA yearbook); Right: Kwan Mui (right) as president of HK Kwan Clansmen Association presenting a souvenir flag to Kwan Yung-hong (關勇航) in 1963 as part of the membership recruitment drive (WKYP, 1963-3-20)
In 1962, Sang Hop won the contract to build the new Hennessy Road Government Primary School building in Wanchai for $1.24 million and finished the building the next year. (WKYP, 1962-12-15)
In 1963, Sang Hop was awarded contract for 16 blocks of seven-story and 12-storey high low-income housing which could accommodate 15000 people at $10.5 million (Engineering News-Record)
In 1964, Sang Hop was awarded one of the largest contracts by the HK government to build Block F1 of the Tsz Wan Shan resettlement estate, worth over HK$12 million. (International Commerce, 1964-7-13)
By 1969, Sang Hop was operating out of 301-303 Lockhart Road and two of Kwan Mui’s sons, Kwan Hung-on (關鴻安) and Kwan Hung-kit (關鴻結), were also attached to the firm.
Outside of his business, Kwan Mui was active on the board of the HK Building Contractors Association for many years, having served as vice chairman under Kwong Sun as chairman in 1946 and later served as life advisor. He was chairman of United Builders Insurance and director of Tai Wah Piling & Construction Ltd, both of which he co-founded with fellow HKBCA directors. When the World Lung Kong Federation (individuals with the last name Lau, Kwan, Cheung and Chiu who believe they are descendants of the four heroes from the Three Warrior States period) was formed in 1960, he was elected supervisor with his fellow contractor Cheung Chan-hon as chairman. (KSDN, 1960-9-17) He was also life honorary president of the Ng Yup Industrial & Commercial Society, president of the HK Kwan Clansmen Association and supervisor of the HK Lung Kong Association. (KSDN, 1965-3-16) He had at least eight sons and his 70th birthday party (see below picture) occupied three floors of the Canton restaurant in Shek Tong Tsui and was attended by over 1000 guests including KMT General Chang Fa-kuei and many from the construction industry covered earlier.
Kwan Mui and his large family at his 70th birthday in 1958 (WKYP, 1958-8-25)
As a firm, Sang Hop Construction Ltd was incorporated in 1963 and dissolved in 1987 while Sang Hop Plumbing was dissolved in 1970.
This article was first posted on 22nd May 2020.
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