Sunday, July 11, 2010

1970s Taipei through American eyes

It's not the most obvious place one would expect to find a bunch of old photographs of Taipei, but a website (on Tripod, no less) maintained by former U.S. military personnel stationed at Shulinkou Air Station happens to have a small but valuable collection of such photos. The 6987th Security Group was one of many American military units stationed in Taiwan between 1955 and 1977, during the period of formal military cooperation between the United States military and the Republic of China government. The website is a messy one to navigate, but it offers a few fascinating glimpses of expatriate life in the island's capital city.

Minquan E. Road east of Xinsheng N. Road, 1970

Their photographs reveal a city that was in many ways dramatically different from contemporary Taipei, and one which doesn't usually invite much nostalgia. In the 1970s, it was by all accounts a rather drab, gritty place, with little of the cosmopolitan glamour of other East Asian metropolises like Hong Kong or Tokyo. Despite rapid population growth, the central city remained relatively low-slung, with extremely few high-rise buildings. The city's downtown remained largely concentrated along Zhongshan Road, and had yet to be be overtaken by fast-growing districts to the east.

View north on Zhonghua Road, 1972

Unfortunately, many of the vantage points that these photographs were taken from no longer exist or are no longer publicly accessible, a principle cause being the destruction of the elevated pedestrian walkways that once crossed over most of the city's major intersections. Again, it's not an easy website to get around, but for anyone acquainted with contemporary Taipei, it's worth a look.

Photo credits:
1. Carpenter, M. "Making the rounds in Taipei." 1970. Shulinkou Air Station. 11 Jul. 2010.
2. Swallom, S. "The intersection of Min Chuan East Road and Hsin Shen North Road." 1970. Shulinkou Air Station. 11 Jul. 2010.
3. Duffin, L. "1972 shot of Chung-Hua Road." 1972. Shulinkou Air Station. 11 Jul. 2010.

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