120-year-old house retains old glory

By Quynh Tran   March 5, 2019 | 05:06 am PT
A house, built predominantly of wood by a governor in Tay Ninh town in 1894, retains the original architecture to this day.
120-year-old house retains old glory

In 2017 it was classified as a provincial architectural art relic

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Tran Ngoc Suong, 82, takes care of the house at 39 Phan Chau Trinh Street in Tay Ninh, two hours northwest of Saigon. She is the fourth grandchild of the governor, Nguyen Tam Kien (1854 - 1914), who built this place.

Suong said: "He was a native of central Vietnam and was sent to the south by the court of Hue (imperial citadel) to serve as the governor, an important post during the French colonial period. The structure remains intact, so do the furniture and dishware."

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The house is about 240 square meters and in typical ancient style. In the middle of the living room is the altar for the governor. The floor is paved with hexagonal-shaped bricks.

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Typical ancient houses have no floors, but this one has a large, airy mezzanine. Every little detail like railing, stairs, walls have elaborate carvings. Suong said: "The mezzanine is the main living place of the family. Some family members left for work elsewhere, so only I and my son's family live here."

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The main entrance and exit doors are made of wood, which are still stand firm. In addition to four main doors, there are eight others divided evenly on both sides, allowing air and light in. The patio is lush with all kinds of plants. The columns, rafters, walls, floors, and altars are all made of expensive and rare kinds of wood.

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Birds, phoenixes, leaves and other patterns are elaborately carved on doors, pillars, railings and remain in excellent condition.

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A lot of the original furniture is still intact and in its original place. "Fewer items are left because of the war and the fact our family sent many antiques away to keep them safe but ended up losing them," Suong said.

Besides settees, tables, chairs, church cabinets, and paintings the most valuable item is a set of eight ancient weapons placed in the worship area. These weapons are older than the house itself.

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"This painting hung in the corner of the house before I was born," Suong said. There are a typewriter, telephone and gramophone, which were often found in the homes of affluent families during the French colonial period.

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A porcelain lamp in the century-old altar of the governor.

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One side of the house is covered with a trellis.

Suong said: "During weekends our house gets many visitors: young people take wedding photos here, there are also film crews coming here to shoot. We are always happy when people visit."

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