Grosvenor Hotel



The Grosvenor Hotel, located in Oranje Building (now known as Stamford House), began as an extension of Raffles Hotel.1 Officially opened on 1 August 1921, it gained a reputation as a hotel of high standing in its own right. The Grosvenor closed in August 1926.2

History
The Grosvenor had its beginnings in Stamford House located along Stamford Road, a building originally designed for the major department store, Whiteaway, Laidlaw and Co.3 While the first two floors were built for commercial purposes, the upper floor comprised residential flats where its owner Seth Paul himself resided for most of his final years before his death in 1921.4

Around-the-world cruises were highly popular during the prewar years and the early 1920s, and ships frequently docked in Singapore, where Raffles Hotel would often serve as the official host venue for cruise passengers.5 However, as a result of the influx of tourists, the hotel began to face a shortage of rooms.6 Oranje Building (which Stamford House was known as then) was chosen to be an annexe to Raffles Hotel, as it was designed and built by R. A. J. Bidwell of Swan & Maclaren, the same architect for Raffles Hotel. The upper two floors of the building were leased by Aviet Sarkies of Messrs Sarkies Brothers to accommodate overflow customers from Raffles Hotel. The annexe was in use until 1913; five years later, Aviet Sarkies left Singapore. Martyrose Arathoon, who took over the management of Raffles Hotel from Aviet Sarkies, continued to lease the upper floors of the Oranje Building, and planned to turn the space into a hotel of standing in its own right.7


In mid-1920, Arathoon refurbished the Oranje to transform it into a proper hotel and renovation took more than a year to complete.8 The building reopened as Grosvenor Hotel on 1 August 1921, under the proprietorship of Messrs Sarkies Brothers, who also owned Raffles Hotel as well as the Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Penang.9

Description
After the renovation, there were a total of 50 bedrooms, with the more expensive single and double bedrooms located on the second floor. These rooms had attached bathrooms with bath and sanitary fittings that were said to be incomparable to those of any other hotel in Singapore.10 Its rooms were regarded as the largest in the hotel industry at the time,11 each furnished with black teakwood furniture as well as beds and mattresses of a “special make”. Wardrobes and dressing tables featured inset bevelled mirrors. On the third, uppermost floor of the building were rooms without attached bathrooms but provided with special bathing facilities.12

The Grosvenor’s main entrance faced Stamford Road, with the dining room to the left of the entrance.13 The restaurant served the same menu as Raffles Hotel and used the latter’s fine cutlery.14 Its dining room was subdivided, with a café on one side, a grill on another, and a separate section for serving à la carte meals. The silver grill was a special feature in the dining hall: It allowed diners to pick their cut of meat from a marble slab to be placed directly on the grill. Several separate rooms allowed for private entertainment, each stocked with silver and plated ware. Light teakwood wall panelling and black teakwood furniture gave the dining room a luxurious setting.  The café and restaurant only accepted cash payment from walk-in patrons, but the hotel’s residents could use a chit system, whereby tabs could be kept. The kitchen was located at the back with a capacity to serve 200 people.15

The hotel had its own generator that supplied electricity for running the large arc lamps in the dining room as well as the fans and lights in the drawing room also on the ground floor. The drawing room, which featured light teakwood panelling similar to that used in the dining room, could be used for reading, writing and playing cards.16 Care had been taken for both comfort and safety, with fire hydrants and hoses available for every room.17

In 1922 the hotel began offering the option of room without meals, with the tariffs fixed to one room even though it could be shared among several occupants.18 In 1928, a new grill room opened, offering food cheaper than that served in the café and restaurant.19

The Grosvenor often hosted important dinners in its dining rooms, such the celebration of new official appointments and the reception or farewell dinners for dignitaries.20 With its own orchestra and billiard room, the hotel became a place of entertainment for both visitors and local expatriates. In the 1920s, billiard competitions were frequently held at the hotel, with entrance fees priced at $3 and handsome winning cups offered.21 On 5 December 1922, The Grosvenor held its first weekly dinner and dance.22

Jacob “Joe” Constantine took over the hotel’s management in 1924 until its closure in 1926. He had previously served as hotel manager in key hotels belonging to the Sarkies Brothers.23

Closure
The Grosvenor Hotel closed in August 1926. Its furniture was auctioned off and its cutlery was returned to Raffles Hotel. Stephens, Paul and Co., acting for the estate of Seth Paul, put up the private unfurnished flats for long-term rent and set up a restaurant on the ground floor.24 The following month, Stamford Hotel and Restaurant was opened under the management of G. M. Gregory who had previously managed Raffles Hotel and The Grosvenor.25

Within a year, the apartments were taken over by Hoseb Arathoon from Stephens, Paul and Co., the proprietors of the building, on a five-year lease. He reinstated the Grosvenor name to the residences. When the landlord, Paul’s daughter Klara van Hien, returned to Singapore in 1933, she took over the building from Arathoon, renaming it Oranje Hotel.26



Author

Bonny Tan



References
1. Wright, N. H. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Middle Park, Vic.: Amassia Publishing, p. 123. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)
2. Liu, G. (1992). Raffles Hotel. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 94. (Call no.: RSING 647.94595701 LIU); Untitled. (1926, August 14). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Singapore improvements. (1905, April 4). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Death of Mr. Seth Paul. (1921, August 25). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Wright, N. H. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Middle Park, Vic.: Amassia Publishing, p. 124. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI); The American tourists. (1909, December 9). The Straits Times, p. 7; Golden jubilee tour. (1923, March 24). The Straits Times, p. 9; The touring age. (1923, March 27). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Liu, G. (1992). Raffles Hotel. Singapore: Landmark Books, pp. 94–95. (Call no.: RSING 647.94595701 LIU)
7. Wright, N. H. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Middle Park, Vic.: Amassia Publishing, pp. 120, 122–123. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI); Hotel tariffs. (1922, March 10). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. The Grosvenor. (1921, September 21). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Hotel tariffs. (1922, March 10). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Liu, G. (1992). Raffles Hotel. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 647.94595701 LIU)
10. Liu, G. (1992). Raffles Hotel. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 647.94595701 LIU)
11. Wright, N. H. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Middle Park, Vic.: Amassia Publishing, p. 123. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)
12. The Grosvenor. (1921, September 21). The Straits Times, p. 10; The Grosvenor. (1921, September 24). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. The Grosvenor. (1921, September 21). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
14. Hotel manager charged. (1931, December 24). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Wright, N. H. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Middle Park, Vic.: Amassia Publishing, p. 123. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)
15. The Grosvenor. (1921, September 21). The Straits Times, p. 10; The Grosvenor. (1921, September 24). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. The Grosvenor. (1921, September 24). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. The Grosvenor. (1921, September 21). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Untitled. (1922, May 16). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Untitled. (1928, July 27). Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Honouring two citizens. (1924, June 30). The Straits Times, p. 12; Social and personal. (1923, April 5). The Straits Times, p. 8; Hon’ble Mr Tessensohn. (1923, March 21). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Wright, N. H. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Middle Park, Vic.: Amassia Publishing, p. 123. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI); Billiards. (1922, November 23). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Press (1884–1942), p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Untitled. (1922, December 1). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Untitled. (1924, August 1). The Singapore Free Press and Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Wright, N. H. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Middle Park, Vic.: Amassia Publishing, pp. 189, 191. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)
24. Untitled. (1926, August 14). The Straits Times, p. 8; Untitled. (1926, July 22). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Untitled. (1926, September 8). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Wright, N. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Melbourne: Amassia Publishing, pp. 138, 269–271. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)



The information in this article is valid as at 27 August 2015 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

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