Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Monday, January 25, 2010

Top of the Ambassador

Les sent me a batch of photos that he took from the roof of the Ambassador Hotel back around 1965 or 1966.  He said that he went into the hotel, took the elevator to the top floor and was surprised to find that he could walk right out onto the roof.

I think I was most struck by how "flat" the city looked in those days.  The Ambassador towered over most other structures in that part of the city.   I'm sure the landscape looks quite different today.


Misty said...

This is a fascinating series.

I studied the top image carefully for landmarks.

In the distance we have the President Hotel as the large structure in the distance, Grand Hotel behind that, to the right is the Imperial Hotel and then to the right of that is the large Japanese era school on Linsen Bei Lu with greenery.

The three parallel apartment buildings in the right foreground are still standing today.

Then looking down Chungshan Bei Lu the structure being built is the Mackay Memorial Hospital or the bank next door to it. Probably the bank actually.

Looking at the photo with the Cat building, which I guess is a story in itself, you can see that there are lots of nice Japanese houses. Amazingly a few of them survive and have been refurbished. I don't know what their function is today.

It would be great if someone could get on the roof and take the same shots today.

Don said...


There's a story to go with the CAT building?? ;-)

I'll be posting the rest of Les's rooftop photos tomorrow morning.

George said...

Thanks to Les for providing these wonderful photos. This is what I remember from those years. In the first photo I am looking for the Grand Hotel mentioned by Misty(large building) that seems to be missing (or is it blocked from view by the President Hotel in the foreground)? Thanks for posting these - beautiful.

Don said...

George, I believe that the Grand Hotel as it exists today was completed in 1973, which was after these photos were taken. For some photos of the hotel's evolution that I posted back in 2008, use this link:

Misty said...

Well I guess the story behind CAT, Air America and the CIA connection is fairly well known. However, the Chung Shan Bei Lu office was listed as their HQ around this time so we can only speculate as what role the Taipei office played.

Don said...


Yeah, the history of CAT is pretty well documented all over the internet.

But whenever I hear that name, I remember a little tea house, I believe on Chung Shan North Road somewhere south of the compound. Their sign was very similar to the CAT logo but underneath it was printed, "Coffee and Tea." My buddy Larry Sherman and I used to chuckle every time we walked past that place.