Hanoi to pull plug on iconic radio station

By Thuy Quynh   December 26, 2019 | 06:56 pm PT
Its towers the first to broadcast Vietnam’s independence, historic Asian transmission center succumbs to urban infrastructure wave.

The old French villa in Dai La Street served as the first national radio station from where Ho Chi Minh’s 1945 Declaration of Independence, giving birth to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, was spread.

This historic structure is, however, scheduled for demolition on December 31 to make way for a new elevated road, an announcement that bitterly affected current residents.

A French villa at 128C Dai La Street, Hanoi, which served as a radio station from the early 1900s. Photo by VnExpress/Tung Dinh.

The architectural gem served as a radio station from the early 1900s. Photo by VnExpress/Tung Dinh.

According to official records, the structure was used for communication purposes between colonial authorities in Hanoi, Indochina and Paris. Equipped with a wireless radio system, the station made Vietnam one of the earliest Asian countries to adopt modern, early 20th century technology.

The villa was transformed into Radio Bach Mai, the national radio station, in 1945, with its old Morse code generator adjusted to receive radio waves.

Voice of Vietnam (VOV) was established on its first floor on September 7, 1945, five days after Ho Chi Minh read out the Declaration of Independence.

Since 1967, the villa has been occupied by families of senior station officials. Currently, their children live there.

Unrenovated, the building retains its original features after 43 years. Nguyen Khanh An moved to the villa in 1977. The 64-year-old struggled to contain her tears when asked about the building being razed.

"It would be a lie if I said I don’t feel any remorse after hearing this place will get pulled down," she said. "When my father was still alive, he told me to take care of the house and retain its inherent architecture. So, it troubles my heart thinking about it being bulldozed."

Local authorities said they are collecting feedback from local residents to submit to Hanoi People's Committee to review.

Voice of Vietnam Radio, in turn, has sent a written request to the Committee proposing the historic structure be conserved.

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