All you need to know about the history of Kennedy Town, Hong Kong

Kennedy Town's unique blend of residential tranquility, historical charm and modern vibrancy makes it a standout neighborhood in Hong Kong.

All you need to know about the history of Kennedy Town, Hong Kong
Source: Wikimedia Commons/Kimon Berlin

Nestled on the western edge of Hong Kong Island, Kennedy Town (KTown) has evolved dramatically over the years. Named after Arthur Edward Kennedy, the seventh governor of Hong Kong, this area has transformed from a tranquil corner to a lively hotspot, especially since the arrival of its MTR station in 2014. Today, it's bustling with life and packed with dining options, offering a quieter and more affordable alternative to the neighboring districts of Central and Sheung Wan. With roots tracing back to its days as a resettlement area in the 1850s, KTown has transformed into one of Hong Kong's most historic and captivating communities. Read on for more of the history of Kennedy Town ahead of your next visit.

City of Victoria

Back in 1857, the British government decided to divide Victoria City into four wan (Chinese for "rings"). One of those rings was Sai Wan, now famously known as Kennedy Town. Back then, it shared the limelight of early Hong Kong's development with Shek Tong Tsui and Sai Ying Pun. In the 1890s, Victoria City was expanding along the coast, with sturdy granite and brick buildings dotting the landscape. Transportation was picking up pace, too, with buses and trams becoming the norm, improving the area's connectivity with the rest of Hong Kong.

The city's boundary stones

In 1903, the Hong Kong government set up stones along the city's western limit to define the boundary of Victoria, which was the main urban center on Hong Kong Island at the time. The stone in Kennedy Town, standing at 98 centimeters tall, was etched with the words "City Boundary 1903," and it's one of the few remaining boundary stones from that period, acting as a historical landmark and a reminder of the city's colonial past. Its location next to the temporary recreation ground makes it accessible for those interested in exploring the historical aspects of the neighborhood.

Earliest housing estates

Nestled in the heart of Kennedy Town are some of the earliest public housing estates in all of Hong Kong. Dating back to the late 1950s, Sai Wan Estate and Kwun Lung Lau have been providing homes for generations of residents. But Kennedy Town isn't just about its historic estates – it's also home to more recent luxury developments like The Merton and Manhattan Heights, adding a touch of modern living to the neighborhood. With approximately 138 developments in the area, there's no shortage of housing options to suit every lifestyle.

With the recent MTR extension, Kennedy Town is experiencing a surge in demand for new property developments. At a District Council meeting in 2015, plans were discussed to rezone and redevelop various areas in west Kennedy Town, including former cottage areas, campus sites and even the ex-incinerator and abattoir site. This ambitious project aims to provide around 3,000 new residential units, catering to the growing needs of the community. While there's talk of redevelopment, some of the district's older buildings face an uncertain future, with the Housing Authority weighing the costs and impacts of rebuilding and relocation.

Kennedy Town today

Originally designated as a resettlement area for those fleeing the Tai Ping Rebellion, Kennedy Town's development has been slower compared to its neighbors, resulting in a unique blend of old-world charm and modern convenience. Today, Kennedy Town is primarily a residential district characterized by its mix of low- and mid-rise buildings nestled amid lush greenery. Open spaces like Belcher Bay Park and New Kennedy Town Praya offer residents and visitors alike a tranquil retreat from the urban hustle and bustle. 

But don't let its residential vibe fool you – Kennedy Town is fast becoming a destination in its own right, thanks to its burgeoning restaurant scene and revitalized waterfront. With the recent addition of the MTR's Island Line Extension, Kennedy Town is more accessible than ever, drawing in day trippers eager to uncover its hidden treasures. And with ongoing redevelopment efforts, Kennedy Town is constantly evolving, offering something new to discover around every corner. Kennedy Town's unique blend of residential tranquility, historical charm and modern vibrancy makes it a standout neighborhood in Hong Kong. Whether you're a foodie, a history buff, or simply looking for a new place to explore, Kennedy Town offers a little something for everyone.