Tom Construction Co. (順興隆建築)

  • York Lo: Tom Construction Co. (順興隆建築)

Tom Construction Co. Image 1 York Lo

Left: Tom Construction founder K.S. Tom; Right: Ad for Tom Construction in 1950, both pictures highlighted residential projects (HKBCA yearbook) 

Tom Construction Co was one of the leading building contractors in Hong Kong in the 1950s founded by Tom Man-loong (譚文龍), better known as K.S. Tom.  

A native of Sunwui prefecture in Guangdong, K.S. Tom’s father Tom Pak-tsz was a reputable contractor in HK for several decades. Born in 1906, Tom himself went to Queen’s College and followed his father’s footsteps into the construction business.  

Tom Construction’s specialty was in high end private residences in the Peak and the Southern district, which was a booming business after the War as many mansions were looted and destroyed during the Japanese occupation. Residences built by Tom included the residences of the HSBC taipan on the Peak (completed in 1951-52 for $1 million) and the “Forrestdale” residential flats for the Bank Line (completed in 1953), the general manager of the Union Insurance Society of Canton, local solicitor D.B. Evans (in Shek O) and the shipping owner and agent Eric Moller. In the late 1940s, Tom’s own address was listed 32 Lugard Road on the Peak while Tom Construction’s office was located at 5 Leighton Hill Road. (Telephone Directory for HK and Kowloon, 1948)

The 32 Lugard Road residence, also known as Dragon Lodge (龍廬), was built before the War circa the 1920s and has been described as the “most haunted house in HK” as it was occupied by the Japanese during the War, has been abandoned since the 2000s and plagued by rumors of ghosts. According to a post on Gwulo by GamerKAce who is likely the great grandson of K.S. Tom, his great grandfather rebuilt the house whose roof had collapsed during the Japanese occupation and lived there from 1945 to 1952. It is my guess that Dragon Lodge was named after K.S. Tom whose Chinese name is dragon (contrary to another rumor that it was built by the family of Yunnan ruler Lung Yun). According to Land Registry records, the property was owned by Tom Chan Wai-fong (譚陳蕙芳) of 5 Leighton Hill Road (same address as Tom Construction, which makes her likely the wife of M.L. Tom).  The family continued to own the property after they moved out and the property was later owned by the famous photographer Kan Hing-Fook (簡慶福) and then acquired in 1997 by financier Fung Ka-bun for HK$118 million but Fung sold it at a loss at HK$76 million in 2004 and for whatever reason the house has been abandoned since then.

Aside from residences, Tom Construction built the Jockey Club clubhouse in Sheung Shui and various premises for Cable & Wireless in various parts of HK island and Kowloon. (A Centennial History of HK Construction Industry, 1958)

Tom Construction was also involved in public works and was responsible for the construction of a service reservoir for the Botanical Garden at Tai Wan () on Lamma Island which led to an interesting archaeological discovery. While checking on the quality of the sand being used for concrete at the site, K.S. Tom noticed fragments of pottery and several axe-heads. As he was a keen collector of Chinese curios, he recognized the antiquity of the objects and reported it to the Waterwork Department and archaeologist Professor Joseph L. Shellshear (1885-1958) from the University of Hong Kong visited the site and uncovered more materials. (David, S.G. Geology of Hong Kong, 1952, p 189) 

Outside of his business, K.S. Tom was a director of the HK Building Contractors Association, Kwong Yuet Tong and the HK Tam Family Association. In 1957, his fourth daughter, a teacher at a girl’s school in HK, married Leung Ming-tat, a civil engineering graduate who was manager of a construction firm in Borneo and Sarawak. (WKYP, 1957-3-1) 

Tom Construction Co. Image 2 York Lo

K.S. Tom (first from the left, back row) and other contractors covered earlier such as Ho Ka ming (second from left, front row), Ho Shek-kong (second from right, middle row) and Yu Chung (front row, fifth from left) of Cheung Hing Construction, Chung Cheu-kee (fourth from the left, front row) and Kan Choi (third from the left, middle row) at the opening of the Kwong Yuet Tong office at the Lo Pan Temple in 1950. 

By 1969, K.S. Tom was still managing the firm, whose address was listed as 6 B of 28-30 Leighton Road in Causeway Bay. In the 1980s, Tom Construction’s address was listed as 2/F of 9 Wang On Road and its manager was So Yuk-lam (Business Directory of Hong Kong, 1985).

Posts about K.S. Tom’s former residence at 32 Lugard Road on the Peak:

This article was first posted on 15th May 2020.

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