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Behind the Name: Ice House Street

By Celia Lee 12 October 2023

Header image courtesy of Arnold Wright (via Wikimedia Commons)

If you already know all about Hong Kong’s major landmarks, you will be interested to learn that the vibrant history of the city is often hidden in plain sight, surrounded by high-rises interspersed with traffic-packed streets.

With the best-kept historical secrets woven into the fabric of everyday life, location names are a big part of our rich cultural landscape, revealing some of the most interesting aspects of the past. From local pirates to a royal visit, our “Behind the Name” series explores a whole host of places in Hong Kong with fascinating stories behind their names.

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Hong Kong Ice Company Ltd. in 1908. Photo: Arnold Wright (via Wikimedia Commons)

A one-way road that connects Lower Albert Road to Connaught Road Central, Ice House Street is named after the icehouse that once stood at the end of the street where it intersects with Queen’s Road Central. Established by the Hong Kong Ice Company as early as 1845, this icehouse sold imported ice from the United States and was the sole source for this valuable commodity at the time, up until the ice-making industry underwent further development in Causeway Bay in 1874. While the enterprise on Ice House Street was no longer unique, the name stuck around to this date.

Hong Kong waterfront ca. 1900s, showing the temporary pier off Ice House Street between 1894–1911. Photo: (via Wikimedia Commons)

The company chose this location to build the icehouse for its proximity to the shoreline, which was a few steps away from present-day Queen’s Road Central before land reclamation made accessing cargo ships much easier from other locations. The main customers of the Hong Kong Ice Company were foreign settlers and businesses at the time, all of which were concentrated on the western coast of Hong Kong Island, a factor that no doubt contributed to the decision behind the icehouse’s original location. Interestingly, to persuade the company to sell ice to local hospitals at a lower price, the colonial government allowed the owners to operate on Ice House Street rent-free for as long as 75 years—it’s little wonder that the icehouse never moved until the ice-making industry grew.

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Celia Lee

Staff writer

Born and raised in Hong Kong and educated in the UK, Celia is passionate about culture, food, and different happenings in the city. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her scouting for new and trendy restaurants, getting lost in a bookstore, or baking up a storm at home.

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