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The Main Building was built in 1916, when it comprised of an office, a library, a reading room, a dining room, a lounge, classrooms, matron’s quarters and bedrooms.
Edwardian Classical Revival style
The building style is Edwardian Classical Revival with Beaux Arts, Baroque and Mannerist features. Comprising of three storeys, an upper and a lower basement, it is built to a U-shaped plan. The main facade facing Garden Road is symmetrical with a central entrance porch and three tiers of open verandahs on the ground, first and second floors. The segmental arched pediment above the entrance porch is decorated with floral motifs and supported by Neo-classical columns with tasselled capitals.
In 1922, an extension of 5 levels was added to the south side of the building, with an external safety staircase. One important change was that the open space of the basement was enclosed to form one large room.
In 1929, an extension of 2 levels was added and a fire escape was installed on the north side.
1920s and 1930s
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, The Helena May was a popular venue for important talks, lectures and social gatherings.
Second World War
During the Second World War, Japanese forces requisitioned the building firstly as a billet for troops and later as a public library. At the end of the war, it was requisitioned by the Royal Air Force until 1947.
Post war, as Hong Kong’s decades of economic growth began, The Helena May adapted likewise – Associate Membership was introduced to allow husbands, and later bachelors, to use the Library.
In 1954, an extension of a 3 storeyed building was added to the south wing.
Since 2000, visionary changes made by its Council made further contributions to various community initiatives through the formal establishment of a Community Outreach Committee.
In 2007, the fire escape staircase on the north side was replaced.
2013 to 2015
From 2013 to 2015, significant renovations were carried out to the Main Lounge and Ground Floor function rooms in preparation for the centennial celebration.
External redecoration of the Main Building facade by the Antiquities and Monuments Office to repair defects and restore the original building name and painting with the addition of handrails at the Main Entrance.
Today the purpose of The Helena May remains virtually unchanged – to provide affordable accommodation and to serve as a meeting and networking place for women from international and local communities.