Those passing by Tran Hung Dao Street in District 1, HCMC might see a nearly-100-year-old building attached to the story about Nguyen Van Hao, one of the wealthiest businessmen in Saigon, the former name of HCMC, in the early 20th century.
Lying at the junction of Tran Hung Dao, Ky Con and Yersin streets in the heart of the city, its history dates back to the French colonial time as construction of the building began in 1933 and was completed four years later.
The house once belonged to Hao who was born into a farming family in the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh and moved to Saigon for work at a young age.
He started as vendor of auto parts and accessories and his business thrived in the early 20th century given the growing demand of long-distance travel in the Mekong Delta and the rise of private cars.
He quickly established himself as one of the most successful and richest businessmen in the city at the time.
The three-storey property in a boat-shape is characterized by French architectural features and his name has been carved on the exterior of the building as a way to preserve the traces of his family.
However, Hao traveled out of the city in 1966 to return to his hometown in Tra Vinh Province after his wife died, leaving the house to his only son identified as Nguyen Tam Thanh.
Huynh Gia Tien, the 58-year-old nearby resident, says after nearly one century of existence, the old building has become shabby.
“Currently, part of the building is divided into small units for rent and many descendants of the former rich businessman are still staying on the upper levels of the building, but the heydays of the family have gone away”, Tien added.
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