Nangang, the district in Taipei where I live and work, has a rich history that includes being a center for industry and transportation. However many of Nangang do historical buildings have been destroyed or sit in decay out of view of the general public, mostly due to greedy bureaucrats. One such building that lays hidden in Nangang from the Japanese era called “松山療養所長宿舍” which I have translated as “The Songshan Sanatorium Superintendent’s Dormitory.”
Built in 1925, this dormitory was made for the Japanese doctor that watched over the mental hospital nearby. Made a historical building in 2006, the government later said it required 20,000,000 NT to restore the building and open it to the public. It is planned to be reopened as an “Art Therapy” center for children with special needs, where they can learn to paint, draw, and perform. Here is a depiction of what the building is supposed to look like when finished.
Originally this building was under supervision of the Ministry of Culture, but then the government decided to hand it over to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, who did not want to take on such an expensive project. The Ministry of Culture promised to give funds to help the project, but it has not happened. Supposedly the Ministry of Culture was supposed to pass on funds to the Ministry of Health and Welfare this year, but it seems everyone is dragging their feet.
Below is a historical time travel I have created using maps from here:
Besides climbing over the low brick wall, one can squeeze through an opening between a tree behind someone's private parking space. I was carrying a baby on the front of me so I imagine any fat person could slip through just fine.
Walking around the back of the building, one can see collapsed brick wall and rubble everywhere. This brick wall has collapsed recently because I have seen it standing in other people's blogs.
Behind the dormitory is garden, and a red tin house construction that has been added on recently for cleaning purposes I assume. The entire house is very much securely locked, so even the most skilled ninja will have trouble getting in.
That is a new deadbolt. The person that "regularly cleans" the place surely comes in through here. There is no other entrance into the building that hasn't been boarded off.
There are a few storage shed type constructions around the dormitory. I assume that perhaps their purpose was to store wood or coal fuel.
There is quite a large sinkhole in the ground here, I imagine this is one of the reasons why restoring this place would be so expensive.
View from inside the front yard shed. I'm not sure what the metal object in the far right corner is. Perhaps a well. Also I am not sure what the red wooden object is in the background, and why it is not stored in the house.
You will notice that the windows protrude out of the house. This is to protect the rooms from rain. Also the cement foundation with airways is supposed to protect the house from pests such as termites, although I imagine they now spray the house for bugs.
At this point I had given up on getting inside the house, but I found that there was still a way to get pictures of the inside.
This is the best I can give you for the house's interior. There is wood everything, and it all looks in somewhat decent shape. Although I think they should fire whoever they hired to "regularly" clean this place.
I took off my my loyal steed, which I left unlocked because this is Taiwan, and thus concluded my exploration of the place.
Some work has been done to preserve this building, but now it simply sits in southwestern Nangang, boarded up, empty, and rotting. Although this building is kept in somewhat good condition and is cleaned regularly, it seems a great pity that more has not been done to preserve it for the public to enjoy. It is now in a political tennis court where different government agencies to not want to pay for its repair. As Mayor Ke said, having a historical building placed under your bureau is like getting a fine; you have to pay for the repairs. Now everyone wants to pass this “fine” around. So I guess the general feeling in the government is to ignore history and culture and do not spend money to restore these burdensome "fines" at all costs. It’s a sad mindset that has all but destroyed most of Nangang’s history.
This building is one of the few well preserved Japanese wooden buildings in Taipei. It should be preserved for the public to enjoy, and the Taipei city government should be ashamed for greedily hoarding funds and putting it its renovation for so long.
The location of the actual Sanatorium itself not well documented and currently lies on protected private property. It too is boarded up, but unlike the dormitory it is hidden away, forgotten, and thus has not been made a historical building. For more info please send me a message. If I have time I might make a follow up blog on it.
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When I tell Taiwanese people that I live in Nangang, some older people tell me that it is a place full of factories and industry. However Nangang today is a vibrant and modern part of Taipei, full of greenery and advanced architecture. But sadly, there is almost no trace of Nangang’s industrial history anywhere.
Nangang 南港means “South Port” in Chinese. This south port once rested on the southern banks of the Keelung River near what is now the Neihu MRT depot in Nangang District, Taipei. There was a "North Port" on the Keelung river in what is now Xizhi. Nangang was once part of Neihu District before it split in the ROC era. In the earliest times, Nangang was known as an industry hub for coal, brick making, and tea farming. In order to ship goods from Neihu to Nangang rail station, at least two suspension bridges were made across the Keelung River.
Currently two remaining suspension bridge towers next to the Keelung River from the industrial era of Nangang. The best preserved is “五分吊橋” Wufen suspension bridge. According to the signs next to the bridge, it was built in 1918.
This bridge is very large and prominent along the river. It has its own garden and sidewalk around it as well as signs detailing the historical significance of the bridge. I see no reason not to just explain what the signs already say.
I will paraphrase the signs next to Wufen Suspension Bridge :
During the late Qing and Japanese era, brick making was the main industry in Neihu. The soil and clay here was prime for brick making, and many brick kilns sprung up in the area. However in modern times due to pollution, price of land, and other factors the brick making industry has all but disappeared here.
During the Japanese era, there were many coal mines that sprung up in Neihu, mining two major coal veins. After 1950, the coal mining industry could not compete with modern industry and gradually disappeared.
Wufen bridge was the first bridge built across the Keelung river for shipping coal to Nangang train station, where it could then be shipped across all Taiwan. The bridge broke apart in 1969 and was not repaired since. In 2004 the Taipei City government designated it as a historical building, recognizing it as one of the last standing suspension bridges in Taipei and an important structure showing the modernization of the area.
History of Wufen Village: Basically Wufen village changed its name and area through the years and is now part of Donghu village in Neihu District.
Another bridge that many people forget exists further down the river as a monument to Taipei’s past. This bridge is called Nanhu Suspension bridge, “南湖吊橋” and also called “內湖葫蘆洲吊橋” Neihu Hulu Suspension Bridge. It sits on the top of an embankment and has no signs or anything to tell us its history. But, the fact that it still stands is a miracle.
This bridge stands directly north of Nangang station, giving a direct path for coal and other good from Neihu. Map:
According to this source, Neihu Hulu Suspension Bridge was built in 1930 and was the main connection between what is now Nangang and Neihu. It helped to carry bricks and coal across the river during the height of the brick making era. Now all that remains is one tower, which has been declared a historical monument. But now it seems the only people that care about this historical artifact are a few graffiti artists and the person that cuts the grass.
Another suspension bridge down the river from this era was Changshou Suspension bridge長壽吊橋, which was rebuilt for foot passengers. I will have to cover this in a later blog.
Even though these towers may seem insignificant, they are some of the last historical monuments left in the area. Wufen Suspension bridge is perhaps the best preserved and presented historical monument near Nangang, and is a shining beacon to future historical preservation in Taipei, which is sorely needed.
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