Heritage House, an intriguing glimpse into Hanoi’s past

12:54 | 19/02/2018 Culture & Art

(VEN) - The Heritage House in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, a typical 19th century merchant’s home and one of few remaining intact buildings of its era, attracts thousands of domestic and foreign tourists.

heritage house an intriguing glimpse into hanois past
The beauty of Hanoi is often found in its age

Typical architecture

The house is located at 87 Ma May Street, which was once located on the banks of a busy Red River harbor. It consisted of two small streets: Hang May and Hang Ma. Hang May, located near the pier, specialized in the selling of rattan and bamboo products. Hang Ma, close to Hang Bac Street, sold votive papers. At the beginning of the 19th century, the two streets were combined into Ma May Street. In the French time, the street was called Quan Co Den (Black Flag Street). The traditional occupations (rattan and votive papers) disappeared. There were many local and foreign businessmen gathering to carry out their trading business in this street, who then settled down here altogether.

The Heritage House is one of the oldest houses in Hanoi built in the pipe-shaped architecture popular in the 19th century. It has had a number of owners, but the original architectural style is preserved. It is one of few remaining intact buildings of its era, and was the first to be renovated in a 1999 restoration project of the Old Quarter, financed by the local government and the French city of Toulouse, and opened to the public. The house is set up as it would have been back in the day, with antique furniture and other old paraphernalia.

Dam Thu Huong, a staff member at the Heritage House, said that after the French left Hanoi, the house was turned into housing for five families who lived there until 1999.

Covering an area of 157.6 square meters, the house is 28 meters long, 5 meters wide in the front and 6 meters wide at the back. With its slate roof and wooden beams, the house consists of two wings separated by a square yard, and linked by a small balcony on the next floor. The courtyard at the center served to provide sunlight and a flow of air into the otherwise dark interior.

The street-front ground floor included a kitchen, bathroom, storage and a room used to sell goods. On the floor above was a living room to host guests and worship ancestors. A bedroom was linked to the living room by a balcony.

A cultural meeting place

In light of its great historic value, the house was recognized as a Vietnamese National Heritage in 2004. “The house welcomes more than 100 tourists per day on average, many of them Europeans,” Huong said.

The management board of Hanoi’s Old Quarter also regularly organizes special cultural events at the house in an effort to draw additional tourists. Crafts and trinkets are sold there, including silver jewelry, basketwork and Vietnamese tea sets, and a calligrapher or other craftsperson is often on hand.

Tourists visiting the house during the Lunar New Year will have an opportunity to discover a historic gem and learn about the city’s tradition and culture. Peach and orchid flowers will grace the ground floor, while the ancestor altar on the next floor will be laden with a colorful special arrangement of fruits.

Hoa Quynh