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The Hamasen Restoration Project (First Financial Street)

  • Publish Date:2022-05-02
The Hamasen Restoration Project (First Financial Street)

Chinese Name: 金融第一街
Originally Established: Japanese era
Location: Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Did You Know…?
Founded in considerations of urban modernization, the Kaohsiung City Government proposed the Hamasen Restoration Project, seeking and receiving funding subsidies from the Ministry of Culture's Reconstruction of Historical Scenes project. Among the various goals within this overarching restoration project are the restoration of the Old Sanwa Bank and the Trade Building to their historical appearances, both of which are efforts of some notable importance.

Hamasen was the name of the first modern organized neighborhood in Taiwan created by land reclamation during the Japanese rule of Taiwan, an area that could be considered the starting point of modern Kaohsiung. During the Japanese period, Kaohsiung Port Railway Station (then Takao Station) was a prosperous hub for trade and commerce because of the west coast railroad and Kaohsiung Port shipping—all imports and exports went through Kaohsiung Harbor, and finance, commercial, and import/export traders established themselves in Hamasen.

The area of Linhai 1st and 2nd Roads once played host to the Takao Branch of the Taiwan Commercial and Industrial Bank, Sanjushi-Ginko Bank’s Takao Branch (later the Kaohsiung Branch of Sanwa Bank), Yamagata House, the Kaohsiung Post Office, the Kaohsiung Credit Union, Changhua Bank, and more. It was the political and economic center of that time, earning the nickname of “Kaohsiung’s First Financial Street,” a witness to prosperity and the changing of the times.

The Trade Building was a key location in the streets in front of the old Takao Station. During the Japanese period, it was home to the Haruda Inn, a ryokan, but was rumored to have been destroyed in an Allied air raid near the end of World War II. In 1951, after the war, the four-story building was rebuilt, becoming one of the tallest buildings in the Hamasen area at the time. At first, the new building served to house refugees who had come to Taiwan in the wake of the Chinese Civil War, along with the second branch office of the Combined Logistics Command. In 1963, the Importers and Exporters Association of Kaohsiung bought the building, officially naming it the Traders Building the following year. In addition to its use as office space, part of the building was leased to the Bank of Overseas Chinese.

In 2014, with the building facing the threat of demolition, the Cultural Affairs Bureau engaged with the KIEA to discuss the possibility of retaining and revitalizing it without demolishing it. Both sides came to a consensus, with the CAB taking on the lease to preserve it, and developing a public-private partnership model that took into account development, usage, and cultural preservation.

After more than a year of restoration work, the Hamasen Traders Building was returned to its original architectural appearance, with the accumulated scars of time on both the interior and exterior retained, including the exterior washed stone walls, the interior terrazzo flooring, the reinforced concrete brickwork, reinforced concrete floor slabs, wooden door and window frames, and the Western-style wooden roof structure, all of which are highly distinctive. The night lighting has also been designed to bring out the cultural and nostalgic flavor of the building’s classical vocabulary.

The Traders Building has been restored and re-opened, and the Cultural Affairs Bureau has curated a special exhibition on the area and its development, helping people learn more about its glorious history through historical descriptions, old photos, models, images, and other exhibits. This is just the start of the restoration efforts for the area. From here, there are plans to continue on with restorations to the old Sanwa Bank, Yamagata House, Patriotic Women’s Association, and more. Furthermore, the area will be linked with the Pier 2 Special Art Zone and the Railway Cultural Park to create a new landmark for the regeneration of the Port District, its culture, and its history.

The main scope of the Hamasen project is bounded on the northern and western sides by Shoushan, the eastern side by the old Hamasen railroad track, and the southern side by the waterfront area of Kaohsiung Port. The project aims to reshape the landscape of the Hamasen area, with an overall plan built around four main characteristics of the site: the mountain, the harbor, the railway, and the township. It also seeks to integrate the preservation of cultural assets into a more comprehensive model, creating an area rather than a simple series of points, transforming Hamasen into an environment that is attractive from both historical and livability perspectives.

(Photo Credit: Bureau of Cultural Affairs, Kaohsiung City Government)