Located at Bishop Hill in Shek Kip Mei, the Ex-Sham Shui Po Service Reservoir lay dormant and forgotten for decades.

A government employee takes pictures at the ex-Sham Shui Po service reservoir, completed in 1904 and recently given Grade 1 historic building status by the Antiquities Advisory Board, on November 25, 2021. (Photo by Louise Delmotte / AFP)

But the disused century-old subterranean structure was thrust into the limelight after a government demolition plan led to the discovery of its rare Romanesque architecture in late 2020, eventually altering its fate to become one of the most popular heritage sites in the city.

Milton Law, a senior engineer at the Water Supplies Department, looks at a granite pillar at the former reservoir. (Photo by Louise Delmotte / AFP)

Built in 1904, it was the first locally built circular underground service reservoir to provide fresh water to residents who lived in Kowloon Tong, Sham Shui Po and Tai Hang Tung. It ceased operations in 1970, after the Shek Kip Mei Fresh Water Service Reservoir – which had a storage capacity of 30 million gallons – was commissioned.

The Water Supplies Department (WSD) originally planned to tear down the retired reservoir citing structural risks as its roof had been pierced by tree roots. But the demolition was halted after red brick arches and granite piers were unveiled in online images in December 2020, sparking public calls to preserve the site.

Inside the former underground reservoir. (Photo by Louise Delmotte / AFP)

In June last year, the city’s Antiquities Advisory Board rated the former water supply structure as a Grade 1 historical building. The government also arranged guided tours of the site, which opened in December 15 last year. The 90-minute tours cover the reservoir’s design, architectural structure and the historical development of the fresh water supply system in Kowloon, the government said last November.

A member of the press walks amidst the granite pillars and red brick arches. (Photo by Louise Delmotte / AFP)

“The Government will carry out studies and consult the public, including making reference to the public’s views collected upon their participation in the guided tours, and look into the options of conserving and revitalising the Ex-Sham Shui Po Service Reservoir in the long run, with a view to enabling the public to enjoy this place,” the WSD said in a statement issued last November.

Photo: GovHK.

Owing to the latest Covid-19 outbreak, in-person visits are currently suspended, but a virtual tour is available online.

Photo: GovHK.
Photo: Hong Kong Reminiscence.
Photo: Kevin Cheng/United Social Press.
Photo: GovHK.

Check the government’s website on the retired service reservoir for more details.

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