Restoring the 90-year-old Jessville Manor in Pok Fu Lam was always going to be a tough job. Converting it into four units suitable for contemporary living proved to be a completely different ball game.
“Restoring Jessville [Manor] was no easy feat and we have encountered a few challenges during the process,” Samsbury Investments, which owns the Italian Renaissance style home, told the Post. “Retaining and restoring as many of the existing materials as possible to keep the facade and interiors in their historic context required a lot of time and effort.”
The mansion was built by William Ngar Tse Thomas Tam, a barrister and magistrate, in 1929. His son William Nixon Thomas Tam Ching is a director of Samsbury, according to records with the Company Registry.
Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.
“This heritage mansion is a rare product in the market. It will definitely attract tenants if the interior fittings manage to meet a luxury standard,” said Koh Keng-sing, chief executive and founder of Landscope Christie’s International Real Estate.
When the four units, which range in size from 2,248 sq ft to 2,961 sq ft, will be available for leasing has yet to be decided, Samsbury said. Work on interiors was still under way, it added.
“The sourcing of replacement materials that are in keeping with the historic fabric, and the lack of skilled labour who are familiar with restoration practices, have made it difficult to speed up the restoration work,” the company said.
“Many of the original features from the 1930s – e.g.timber doors, timber and marble floors, fireplaces, picture rails, ceiling cornices, etc – have been conserved and restored. At the same time, modern bathroom and kitchen amenities have been sympathetically introduced. All external features of the old building have been restored,” it said.
Samsbury has also built a 14-storey residential block at the site. Jessville Tower, which has 28 units, became available for leasing this month. The flats are available in two sizes, 1,358 sq ft and 1,431 sq ft, with rents starting from HK$73,800 (US$9,503) per month inclusive of one car parking space, management fees and government rates.
The tower, which took about nine years to complete, has been “well received”, said Knight Frank, the leasing agent.
Since the tower is “halfway up a steep mountain”, this meant that the construction of its foundations took longer than usual, said Samsbury. Additionally, unexploded bombs from World War Two were discovered on the site of Jessville Tower, and the foundation work had to be suspended until these were rendered harmless, it said.
“At the time the project was originally contemplated, there was a moratorium on new developments in Pok Fu Lam. It took several years of negotiations with the government to arrive at a mutually acceptable scheme, which made economic sense for us and allowed the old house to be preserved for the collective memory of Hong Kong,” the company said. Approval for the tower was contingent on a preservation plan for the mansion.
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in additional challenges. The company said a larger number of site workers who went to mainland China for Lunar New Year holiday last year were stranded when the authorities closed the border between the city and mainland. Similarly, many of the finishing materials from the mainland and overseas could not be delivered on time.
More from South China Morning Post: