How Saigon's iconic Nguyen Hue Street has transformed over 150 years

By Quynh Tran   June 11, 2017 | 03:11 am PT
From a canal to a boulevard, and now a pedestrian zone in the heart of the city.

Nguyen Hue Street started life as the Kinh Lon Canal that ran from the Saigon River into the city. Chinese vendors selling fabric were a common sight along the canal.

After the French conquered Saigon in 1861, it was renamed the Charner Canal and flanked by Rue Rigault de Genouilly and Boulevard Charner.
This photo was taken by Emile Gsell in 1870.

Another photo taken by Emile Gsell in 1870 captured the bridge over the canal.

Saigon's first market was located in the middle of Boulevard Charner, and was built in 1860. 
It was not until 1914 when Ben Thanh Market opened that this market was closed. Today, the famous Bitexco Tower and State Treasury of Ho Chi Minh City grace this spot on Nguyen Hue Street.

In 1887, the French filled in the canal to build a tramway connecting Saigon, Cho Lon and My Tho. There was a tram station on Boulevard Charner.

The tall house belonged to a Chinese American named Vuong Thai. In 1883, the French bought the house and restored it four years later. Now it is the headquarters of the Ho Chi Minh City Customs Department.

The canal was transformed into a busy boulevard during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Hundreds of modern buildings sprung up along it, including the famous Tax Center, the oldest shopping mall in Saigon.

However, it was demolished in late 2016 to make room for other developments.

If you were to enter Charner Boulevard from Saigon River, you'd have seen a busy market with traders on your left, while the right side of the street was dotted with French shops and cafes. 

Today's Kim Do Hotel used to be a branch of Société des Garages Charner, where cars were being sold and repaired in late 19th century.

Boulevard Charner hosted festivals and ceremonies. At the intersection with Rue d'Ormay (Mac Thi Buoi Street) stood the Grand Hôtel du Coq d’Or (on the right of the photo), which is now Hotel des Nations.

The five-story Rex Hotel opened in 1959.

At the end of Charner Boulevard now lies the People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City which was built between 1898 and 1909.

At the corner of Boulevard Bonnard and Boulevard Charner stood the Hotel des Nations (on the right of the photo). In the 40s, the Eden Quadrangle was built, and in 2012, a shopping mall took that spot.

Another famous spot on Boulevard Charner was the Mediation Hall, built in 1870.

After the city court was completed in 1887, the hall was redeveloped.

The State Treasury of Ho Chi Minh City, then and now.

Boulevard Charner was renamed Nguyen Hue Street in 1956.

Since April 2015, it has been a pedestrian street.

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