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The History of The Nguyễn Văn Hảo Building, Saigon's Art Deco Flatiron

The Nguyễn Văn Hảo building is perhaps Saigon's best example of art deco flatirons. Standing just across from Ben Thanh market, many of us pass it each day with no knowledge of its history. We've again enlisted the help of historian, Tim Doling, to give us some background on this beautiful building.

One of the real architectural gems in this part of the city, the flatiron building at the junction of Trần Hưng Đạo, Ký Con and Yersin streets (original address 19-21 boulevard Galliéni) was built in the 1920s to provide both offices and residential accommodation for the family of Nguyễn Văn Hảo, patriarch of the Comptoir Nguyễn Văn Hảo Saïgonnais, one of the city's leading automotive spares companies, which sold vehicle accessories from the shop spaces on the ground floor. Although now in poor condition, the flatiron building is still fully occupied by tenants – including, on the top floor, descendants of Nguyễn Văn Hảo.

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A interesting side note, courtesy of Walter Pearson: It was Nguyễn Văn Hảo who paid for the construction of the Nguyễn Văn Hảo Theatre on the corner of Trần Hưng Đạo and De Tham - now the Ho Chi Minh City Drama Theatre - which, in 1945, was the venue for the public meeting which resolved to launch the August Revolution in the south. 

If anyone has more information to add, let us know in the comments below!

Tim Doling is the author of The Railways and Tramways of Việt Nam (White Lotus Press, 2012) and the forthcoming book of walking tours entitled Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014) and conducts 4-hour Heritage Tours of Historic Saigon and Cholon. For more information about Saigon history and Tim's tours visit his website, Historic Vietnam.

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