Hang Bac Silver Street, one of the most prosperous streets in ancient Hanoi, held a significant role as the city’s jewelry trade center and is steeped in fascinating historical stories.
Hanoi’s “well-off” street
|The timeless beauty of the heritage house at 86 Hang Bac Street. Photo: Bao Xay Dung|
Legend has it that Emperor Le Thanh Tong ordered Luu Xuan Tin, who was in charge of internal affairs, to establish a royal mint to cast coins and silver bars. To meet the demands of the mint, Luu Xuan Tin brought skilled craftsmen from Hung Yen Province to settle on Hang Bac Street.
The existence of Hang Bac can be traced back to 1783, as indicated by a stele still found at 42 Hang Bac Street. The street’s royal mint produced gold and silver coins, while its shops specialized in trading precious stones. Hang Bac was renowned for its high-quality silverware, pearls, and handmade ornaments.
After the boom of colonial Vietnam’s economy following World War I, there was a competition among the nouveau riche to construct the most extravagant villas. However, these houses often ignored architectural and classical principles, and their hodgepodge style was ridiculed by the “fashion police” of the day.
Home of the revolutionary scholars
|Heritage House No.86 Hang Bac is an iconic building in Hanoi. Photo: Quang Minh|
However, there were a few who made wise choices, and as a result, 86 Hang Bac still preserves the elegance of neoclassical style. It was known as the “Maison Rouge” due to its red paint, symbolizing good fortune. The house’s balanced design features two side wings flanking the central entrance, maintaining its grandeur despite minor modifications.
The original resident of 86 Hang Bac, Pham Chan Hung, owned a gold shop and initially built the house in 1923, with part of it being rebuilt in the 1930s. As an avid supporter of Ho Chi Minh’s liberation movement, Hung served as the editor of “Nong, Cong, Thuong” (Peasants, Workers, Businessmen) magazine, which covertly promoted nationalist and socialist ideas in France.
Hung’s children received excellent education, with his daughter making history as the first woman to graduate from a French high school. His eldest son, Pham Huy Thong, was educated in France, taught at the Sorbonne, and became involved in politics, working as an assistant to Ho Chi Minh during Vietnam’s independence negotiations in Paris.
During the French resistance, 86 Hang Bac became the headquarters for freedom fighters and a temporary detention center for high-ranking French military officials. Following the French invasion of Hanoi, Hung and his family were forced to leave the city and seek refuge in the countryside.
|The current facade of the historic building no. 86 Hang Bac. Photo: Quang Minh|
After the liberation of Hanoi in 1954, No. 86 Hang Bac provided shelter for many war-displaced individuals. The house’s former dining halls, living rooms, and gardens were transformed into residential dwellings. Recognizing its historical significance, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism has declared it a protected building, ensuring its preservation against demolition.
As you walk down the hall, the glamour and intrigue of the past come alive, illustrated by the beautifully carved doors and the original ceiling.