Saturday, January 16, 2016

Macao - Robert Mitchum (1952) - Rua do Visconde Paco de Arcos, Macau

Having just been talking about the Hotel Grande in the previous post, this view shows the back of the hotel from the vantage point of the inner harbour area.

The hotel is actually the large structure on the right. I've passed this place almost every time I have visited Macau and never realised it had such a varied history. The building looks quite modern, at least compared to the older shop houses that line Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro next to it and was in fact built in 1940, just before the war broke out between Japan and neighbouring China. Macau, being a Portuguese colony remained neutral during the occupation years and as a result saw lots of wealthy refugees from Hong Kong escaping the Japanese oppression.

The Grande Hotel (Chinese name Kwok Chai Tsau Dim) was built by the Tai Heng Company - a company owned by the Fu family who controlled the gambling monopoly between 1937 and 1962. Their lasting contribution to Macau, other than this rather elegant (though dilapidated) shell of a building was to introduce baccarat into local casinos. It was supposedly built with Chinese patrons in mind, as opposed to the various other luxury hotels that catered largely for western visitors. On completion it was the tallest structure in Macau, topping out higher than its neighbour Hotel Central (which can be seen in the background in the above screen caps).

Unfortunately it didn't take long before the place descended into a rather less-than-salubrious destination with all manner of crimes going on including murders, prostitution and drug dealing etc and it eventually closed down in the 1990s and has been sitting there ever since getting more and more decrepit. I think this is a big shame because it is actually a very attractive building. I recently heard some rumours that there was an investor waiting to restore it to its former (pre-vice) glory and I hope it happens because something needs to be done and it would be a shame to just knock it down.

Incidentally, the wooden pier you can see in the foreground is now occupied by the Sofitel development and the tall building on the left is the (also still standing) Hotel East Asia. I'm not sure if this is the original Ponte 16, or perhaps Ponte 17 given its location slightly further up the road from the current Ponte 16. I'm hoping someone more familiar with Macau can comment.

Sadly, I don't have my own picture of the Hotel Grande but here is one courtesy of meckleychina on FLICKR. He also has a great collection of pictures of Asian art deco if you are interested.

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