Nankan locals fight to save historic homes

HOMEWRECKERS::Residents of the Taoyuan community are to protest today to urge officials to protect some 1970s-style orphanage houses and the old trees around them

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Sep 17, 2013 - Page 3

More than 300 residents of Nankan (南崁), Taoyuan County, are to hold a protest at the plaza in front of the Taoyuan County Government headquarters today to ask Taoyuan County Commissioner John Wu (吳志揚) to save the historic houses and trees of the Northern Region Children’s Home from demolition.

Protesters said they are planning to file an application to designate the houses as historic buildings, as well as urge the county government to expedite the designation review process so that the structures can be saved in time.

The children’s home — the nation’s first orphanage — was built in 1946 in Taipei’s Beitou District (北投). It was moved to the then-new facilities in Nankan in 1980, which sit on an approximately 3,758m2 plot of land, to accommodate more residents.

However, the Nankan facility fell into disrepair in 1999 after the organization moved again, this time to Taoyuan’s Lujhu Township (蘆竹). The homes were subsequently damaged by a fire started by homeless people, and the stray dogs, cats and drug addicts that used to gather in the derelict complex.

To protect the community’s residents, the Lujhu Township Office built an iron wall around the houses to keep out people and animals.

The office is now planning to turn the old houses into a community sports center, which would be the first such facility in the county.

The houses were built in a 1970s architectural style, which caught the attention of graphic designer Sun Yu-ching (孫毓晴) when she moved to the area from Taipei about a year ago. Sun said she was also deeply impressed by the old trees surrounding the buildings.

This inspired her to launch an online campaign on Facebook to salvage the structures and trees at the Northern Region Children’s Home.

About a dozen other residents joined her in a small protest in July to ask authorities to salvage the trees, renovate the decrepit houses and turn the property into a cultural park.

Activists involved in the campaign said in a statement to the press that the township office granted the bid to build the sports center to a contractor last year and is set to auction the management of the center in November.

They said the office had told them that it had received more than 200 petitions in favor of the sports center, showing that Nankan residents want the athletic facility to be built.

However, the activists said that “residents only chose the community sports center because they were not told about other better options.”