‘With the acquisition at the Crown Land sale yesterday of a huge area of undeveloped land begins one of the biggest property undertakings in the history of the Colony... the company has as its aim a virtual garden suburb and it is proposed to make provision for trees and lawns.’
– The South China Morning Post, 1931
The Kadoorie Estate was founded in 1931 when the Kadoorie Family controlled company, ‘Hong Kong Engineering & Construction Co.’, purchased a bare hillside at the junction of Argyle Street and Waterloo Road in Kowloon for HK$326,000.
Building works commenced in 1933 and by mid-1937 three houses, a bungalow and six semi-detached houses were completed and occupied. The properties were outfitted with the latest in luxury amenities, including air-conditioners and en-suite bathrooms.
A key feature of The Kadoorie Estate today is its extensive greenery, but the original site was bare and devoid of trees. At the 1940 shareholders meeting the Chairman referred to the indigenous saplings that were planted which grew to be ‘tall, healthy trees, which do much to beautify The Estate as a whole’.
By December 1941, 34 houses were occupied, together with 13 apartments in St. George’s Mansions, a low-rise apartment block. During the occupation of Hong Kong, the properties were used by Japanese forces, and after the war the British Army and Royal Air Force moved in. Civilian tenants started returning in 1946, shown by names like Hongkong & Whampoa Dock Co., Jardine Matheson, General Electric Co. and the Chinese Maritime Customs on the rent roll. In May 1946, Lawrence Kadoorie (later Lord) became a tenant at No. 24 Kadoorie Avenue.
During the 1950s an extensive site development programme was undertaken so that by the end of the decade The Estate comprised 57 houses and 35 apartments. The tenants were principally corporate, trading, shipping and aviation interests, reflecting the growth of Hong Kong at that time. One individual tenant, who leased a new house in September 1953 at HK$1,000 per month, was resident in the same property for almost 70 years.
The tenant profile remained virtually unchanged until the mid-1980s, so that in 1984 over 80 of the 124 properties were still occupied by similar international corporations. However, over the next 20 years it was transformed gradually as The Estate became the preserve of choice both for wealthy industrialists and Hong Kong’s media stars and celebrities, for whom it was a prestigious and luxurious environment in close proximity to their business operations and the recording studios.