The Former Alt House: Biography of a Nagasaki Landmark

The Former Alt House: Biography of a Nagasaki Landmark

by Brian Burke-Gaffney


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The former Alt House is preserved today on its original site in Minamiyamate, the leafy residential neighborhood of the former Nagasaki Foreign Settlement. An Important Cultural Property designated by the Japanese government, the house is the oldest building of Western-style stone construction in Japan. The area is currently fenced off as a historical theme park and popular tourist attraction called Glover Garden. Every year, more than a million visitors pay the entrance fee and follow the paths to the former Alt House, where they marvel at the uncanny style of the building and peer into the cold, deserted rooms. The area around the Italianate fountain at the front often accommodates outdoor wedding ceremonies and parties catered by a local hotel, but none of the guests remember a time when wealthy British and American residents lounged on the veranda gazing at Nagasaki Harbor, their optimistic view of Japan complicated by a sense of cultural difference and wistful thoughts of faraway homelands. Completed in 1867, the former Alt House evokes the form of a bungalow in British India, with sandstone walls and a row of Tuscan pillars marching along the front of a wide stone-paved veranda, and with all the nostalgic nuances of the elegant if incongruous European colonial presence in East Asia. Yet despite the well-preserved physical condition of the building, the interior suggests that the decorators had scant information about the original position of furniture and ornaments or the function of individual rooms: desks are placed in former bedrooms, chairs have their backs to fireplaces, and walls once covered with paintings and photographs are oddly blank. Similarly, most of the pamphlets and books available on the subject of Glover Garden emphasize architectural features and gloss over stories of the buildings and the people who once lived there. The present work looks at the career of the house as the residence of William Alt and other foreign pioneers, as a Methodist Mission School and U.S. Consulate, and as a hotspot in the conflict and confusion of World War II. For the first time in any language, the book introduces former inhabitants and functions of the building and outlines the events that crisscrossed there from the year that Japan awakened from a long slumber and opened its doors to international engagement, until the postwar period when Nagasaki cleared the rubble of wartime destruction and chose tourism as a step to recovery.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9784990824037
Publisher: Flying Crane Press
Publication date: 09/10/2020
Pages: 138
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.30(d)

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