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Keelung Fort Commander's Official Residence

  • Publish Date:2022-04-28
Keelung Fort Commander's Official Residence

Chinese Name: 基隆要塞司令官邸
Time of Establishment: 1931
Location: Keelung, Taiwan
Did You Know?
The Keelung Fort Commander's Official Residence, which was completed during the period of Japanese rule over Taiwan, was considered a high-class residence at the time and was designated as a municipal historic site in 2006. In 2017, the Keelung City Cultural Affairs Bureau included the building in the project "The Tagana Story (大基隆歷史場景再現整合計畫)," spending more than NT$37 million on restoration to recreate the Zen-like, elegant Japanese residential space of the past.

The Keelung Fort Commander's Official Residence is located on the eastern shore of Keelung Harbor, which was the most modern neighborhood in Keelung in the 1930s. The residence is located in front of Dashawan Beach, the first seawater bathing beach in Taiwan, and has an excellent view, which positioned it as a high-class residence at the time. The Keelung Fort Commander's Official Residence was built in 1931 to serve as the private residence of Isuke Nagami (流水伊助), the president of Nagami Transportation. As such, it is also known as the Residence of Isuke Nagami. Nagami Transportation operated the first public bus company in Keelung, specializing in runs between Keelung and today's Bachimen area on the northern coast. The building is built with the traditional dozou-zukuri (土藏造) method, with a timber structural frame and thick mud walls finished with plaster. It also features weatherboard siding and washed stone & hexagonal carvings on the staircase handrails and exterior walls. The layout is an eclectic mix of Japanese and Western styles, with a Japanese room with an oshiire (押入large in-wall cabinet) and tenbukuro (天袋smaller cabinet with sliding doors), along with a Zen garden with a stunning view of the beach. The interior features an elegant lawn and garden with a fish pond made of broken tiles, a true showcase of luxury.

After the Nationalist government decamped to Taiwan after World War II, they found the former commander's residence had been damaged by shelling, and so the Fortress Commander's Official Residence was later moved to the former Nagami residence, becoming the Keelung Fort Commander's Official Residence. After the fortress command was disbanded in 1957, the final commander remained in residence there. In 1977, the Li family purchased the building, living there until 1998, resulting in it also becoming known as the Li Residence (李宅).

The Keelung Fort Commander's Official Residence was declared a municipal historic site on December 7, 2006, and the building and land, then owned by the Ministry of National Defense, were transferred to the auspices of the Keelung City Cultural Affairs Bureau in February 2016. In 2017, the city government applied for a subsidy from the central government for the Forward-Looking Infrastructure Plan, incorporating the Keelung Fort Commander’s Official Residence into the project known as "The Tagana Story," an effort to reconstruct historic sites across greater Keelung, as part of the Ministry of Culture's Reconstruction of Historical Scenes program (再造歷史現場計畫). This program emphasizes the use of the latest digital technologies, including virtual reality and augmented reality, to promote narrative diversity and enrich the historical experience of users of cultural heritage assets, ensuring that these assets can be passed down from generation to generation while properly preserved, sustainably maintained, and becoming internationally marketable Taiwanese classics.

Over the years, due to the large area of the Keelung Fort Commander's Official Residence that had collapsed, the building had almost become little more than a few broken walls, making the restoration of it a challenge. Therefore, the Cultural Affairs Bureau solicited nearly 1,000 photos from the public to create a prototype of the building's original look, as well as visited the Li family with an architect, in hopes of piecing together the internal appearance of the building from the memories of the Li family and old photos. The roof of the residence is a combination of various forms, very different from the standard Japanese dormitory and highlighting Namagi’s unique tastes. The details such as the combination of roof tiles and interface joints made the team think hard during the planning and design stage, and the architects made various roof models and repeatedly discussed things with those responsible for the masonry, woodwork and tiling before the restoration was completed, striving to take into consideration elements like structure and drainage. Furthermore, from the photographs they discovered that in designing his residence, Nagami had made use of bronze-adorned columns in the genkan (vestibule) that incorporated his family symbols. These included not only characters from the family name, but also patterns created from intricated linked curves of all kinds that it was deduced were probably meant to represent bats, symbols for welcoming in blessings and fortune.

After some NT$3.7 million in investment from the Keelung City Cultural Affairs Bureau, in 2020 work was finally completed on the restoration of the Keelung Fort Commander's Official Residence. The final result retains the traces of the passage of time, serving as a time machine of sorts to pull visitors back to the early 20th century and give them a sense of the warmth and history of this elegant, Zen-like Japanese residence.

(Photo courtesy of Keelung City Cultural Affairs Bureau)