Capitol Building



Capitol Building straddles the corner of Stamford Road and North Bridge Road and is closely associated with the adjoining Capitol Theatre. Designed by Keys and Dowdeswell and completed by early 1930, the building was originally known as Namazie Mansions. It was later renamed Shaws Building when Shaw Organisation purchased it in 1946. The Singapore government acquired the building and relaunched it as Capitol Building in 1992. Capitol Building, along with the former Stamford House, is now part of a six-star hotel known as The Patina, Capitol Singapore, which will open in the first quarter of 2016.

Description
Designed in the neoclassical style by architectural firm Keys and Dowdeswell, Capitol Theatre and the adjoining block of flats then known as Namazie Mansions were constructed at a cost of $1.25 million. The three-storey Namazie Mansions was completed sometime between the end of 1929 and early 1930.1


As the building fronts the theatre, large billboards announcing the latest films were placed on its frontage. As a result, the two buildings were so closely associated that one was often mistaken for the other; in fact, Capitol Building was sometimes erroneously referred to as the “Capitol Theatre building”.2

The architecture of Capitol Building has been commended for “turn[ing] the corner well” and has a look that gels with earlier buildings nearby such as the Stamford House. However, its design has also been described as “ponderous”. For instance, the long corridor leading from the main entrance to the theatre was viewed as an odd pocket of space and a sign of poor planning. This corridor was subsequently removed during the 1992 renovations.3

History
Namazie Mansions was named after the owner, Mirza Mohamed Ali Namazie, a Persian businessman who built both the theatre and residences.4 The building was also commonly referred to as the “Capitol flats”, a name that remained into the 1950s.5


In 1946, the Namazies sold Capitol Theatre and Namazie Mansions to Shaw Organisation for $3 million.6 Shaw made the theatre its flagship cinema, while Namazie Mansions was renamed Shaws Building.7

An explosion in 1944 during the Japanese Occupation (1942–45) damaged the building considerably.8 In 1948, Shaw spent $100,000 on rebuilding works, partly to restore the damaged parts of the flats and theatre.9

Soon after the war, tenants moved in to rent the apartments. By then, there were about 20 shops and 15 flats for rent. Rentals hovered around $135 a month in the 1940s, and because the building was under the Control of Rent Act 1953, rentals hardly rose in the decades that followed. In the 1980s, a large three-room apartment in Shaws Building could be rented for under S$150, in sharp contrast to apartments on nearby Orchard Road that commanded rentals as high as S$4,500.10

In the early 1980s, Shaw Organisation planned to purchase the land of nearby Capitol Shopping Centre and demolish Capitol Building and Capitol Theatre to construct a mixed-use development comprising shops, residential apartments and a theatre. Shaw thus began evicting tenants in both its shops and apartments. However, under the Control of Rent Act 1953, Shaw had to provide compensation to its tenants and this hefty cost proved a challenge to Shaw.11

In February 1984, the government acquired Capitol Theatre and Shaws Building, gazetting them for redevelopment.12 Shaws Building underwent extensive renovations and, after three years, was relaunched on 30 April 1992 as Capitol Building. The refurbishment cost S$11 million, and offered spaces for 20 retail and 39 office units in the building.13

Landmarks
Magnolia Snack Bar
Originally known as Creameries Milk Bar or Capitol Milk Bar, Magnolia Snack Bar opened in Capitol Building in the 1940s14 and became a popular place for dates and gatherings.15 It offered a reasonably priced menu of light “Western-style” meals with Hainanese influences, as well as Magnolia ice-cream with various toppings ranging from fruits and nuts, to liqueur sauces and chopped ginger until its closure on 12 July 1988.16


Capitol Shopping Centre
Beside Capitol Building on North Bridge Road was a large open carpark built to serve theatre-goers. The Union Jack Club, which was opened in 1924 as a social venue for British sailors and servicemen, stood on the other end of the carpark.17 By the 1950s, the carpark had become a bus terminus where passengers arrived at via a bus service that began at Changi Point. The accessibility of Capitol Theatre by public transportation made it a popular place even for those living in the suburbs.18 A notable feature at the bus terminus was the large neon advertisement tower.19


Massive urban redevelopment work in the 1970s led the Urban Redevelopment Authority to set up temporary resettlement centres around town to house shops affected by such works. The bus terminus was replaced by Capitol Shopping Centre, which was one of the first resettlement centres to be built.20 The three-storey building was raised in 1976 to temporarily house foodstalls previously located on Hock Lam Street, which was expunged for the construction of Funan Centre (now known as Funan DigitaLife Mall).21 Hawkers from High Street were also relocated there.22 Besides foodstalls and shops, the building also had parking lots.23

In 1985, after the hawkers had been transferred back to the newly completed Funan Centre and Hill Street Centre,24 Capitol Shopping Centre was converted at a cost of S$542,000 into a carpark known as Capitol Car Park Station.25 In 1992, this carpark was transformed into the Design Centre.26 Three years later, however, the Design Centre moved out; by that time, Capitol Centre – as it came to be known – had begun housing shops again.27

Redevelopment
In October 2010, Capitol Centre, Capitol Building, Capitol Theatre, and Stamford House – all conserved buildings except for Capitol Centre – were grouped as a single site for redevelopment with construction slated to begin the following year.28


Stamford House and Capitol Building were refurbished as a six-star hotel known as The Patina, Capitol Singapore, which will open in the first quarter of 2016. Designed by the American architectural firm Richard Meier & Partners Architects, the hotel is part of a larger complex that includes Capitol Theatre, Capitol Piazza and Eden Residences Capitol. The latter two are new buildings erected on the site of Capitol Centre, which was demolished.29



Author

Bonny Tan



References
1. Cinema and theatre. (1929, August 9). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Shock for lady motorists. (1930, February 15). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Untitled. (1930, February 22). Malayan Saturday Post, p. 6; Idah Latiff. (1981, March 23). Capitol row hearings start in July. The Straits Times, p. 8; Tea king Charlie Lin. (1989, January 31). The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Keys, P. (1983, September 6). Take a Bras Basah stroll. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Powell, R. (1994). Living legacy: Singapore’s architectural heritage renewed. Singapore: Singapore Heritage Society, p. 194. (Call no.: RSING 363.69095957 POW)
4. Doraisamy, R. (1991, October 21). Shaw Building was called Namazie Mansions till 1947. The Straits Times, p. 30; Death of Mr. M. A. Namazie. (1931, July 27). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Page 2 advertisements column 6. (1939, April 15). The Straits Times, p. 2; Ladder man caught. (1954, February 2). The Singapore Free Press, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Real estate deals reach $25 million. (1947, July 27). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7 Hwang, T. F. (1984, March 7). T. F. Hwang takes you down memory lane. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Lim, J. (Interviewer). Oral history interview with Kartar Singh [MP3 recording no.: 2335/34/6]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline
9. Capitol re-building gets under way. (1948, November 15). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Yap, M. (1983, September 6). What it’s like to live in an old building. The Straits Times, p. 10; Mohan, B. (1981, March 15). Grand plans for next change at Capitol. New Nation, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Idah Latiff. (1981, March 23). Capitol row hearings start in July. The Straits Times, p. 8; Mohan, B. (1981, March 15). Grand plans for next change at Capitol. New Nation, p. 5; Wang, L. K. (1983, July 11). Old Shaws Building to be preserved. The Business Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Owners unhappy over acquisition of land. (1984, February 26). The Straits Times, p. 12; Capitol Theatre land acquired. (1984, February 25). The Straits Times, p. 1; Raj, C. (1990, July 10). Robin Hood tactics aren’t desirable today. The Business Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Nathan, D. (1993, November 15). Capitol Theatre to be redeveloped? The Straits Times, p. 23; Hong, L. T. (1992, May 1). Shaw Building relaunched and renamed Capitol Building. The Business Times, p. 22; All retail space at ‘new’ Capitol Building taken. (1992, May 1). The Straits Times, p. 47. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Page 3 advertisements column 1. (1948, March 17). The Straits Times, p. 3; Page 2 advertisements column 1. (1958, July 11). The Singapore Free Press, p. 2; Lim, S. (1988, July 12). Time runs out for Magnolia Snack Bar. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Lee, P. (1983, August 1). The Odeon… ‘more than just a cinema hall’. The Straits Times, p. 9; Chan, T. (2003, February 6). Make that a date! The New Paper, p. 87. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Liao, X. (2015, November 12). Look back in hunger: An interview with Glen Goei. The Peak. Retrieved from The Peak website: http://thepeakmagazine.com.sg/2015/11/glen-goei-magnolia-snack-bar-capitol-piazza/
16. Oon, V. (1984, December 16). A snack bar that smacks of the ’50s . Singapore Monitor, p. 2; Lim, S. (1988, July 12). Time runs out for Magnolia Snack Bar. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Yeo, C. (Interviewer). (2005, February 3). Oral history interview with Vincent Gabriel [Transcript of MP3 recording no.: 002909/17/03, pp. 83–84]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline
17. Union Jack Club. (1925, January 28). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 9; Union Jack Club to be enlarged. (1935, September 27). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Page 8 advertisements column 1. (1956, February 20). The Straits Times, p. 8; Chan, K. S. (1998, March 2). Changi story: The good, the bad and the nostalgic. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Hwang, T. F. (1984, March 7). T. F. Hwang takes you down memory lane. The Straits Times, p. 16; Tan, B. B. (1993, August 9). She’s lovelier than ever. The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Resettlement centre to go up at old courts site. (1976, June 10). The Straits Times, p. 7; Wang, L. K. (1983, July 11). Old Shaws Building to be preserved. The Business Times, p. 1; Ng, P. J. (1984, April 15). Resettled in style. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Hock Lam Street stalls may move to new building. (1975, May 25). The Straits Times, p. 6; Stalls at centre for Hock Lam hawkers. (1976, June 9). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Wang, L. K. (1983, July 12). Government to preserve two old buildings in town. The Straits Times, p. 11; Capitol centre likely to go? (1981, October 19). New Nation, p. 5; Oon, V. (1977, February 25). Take a pinch of salt with this new move. New Nation, pp. 10–11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
23. Capitol centre goes to cars and bikes. (1985, July 4). The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Oei, S. G. (1984, November 28). $86m shopping centre to stand empty. Singapore Monitor, p. 2; Coming home in style. (1985, January 26). The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Capitol Centre converted into a car park. (1985, September 4). The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. One-stop shopping venue. (1992, April 11). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. TDB imports and exports office in Bugis. (1995, May 23). The Straits Times, p. 38; From cabaret to blockbusters. (2008, April 27). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Tng, S. (2011, May–June). Capitol sale site. Skyline, 6-7. (Call no.: RSING 354.5957091 S); Chow, C. (2011, February 14). Capitol site renaissance. The Edge Singapore, CC4–CC5. (Call no.: RSING 338.7095957 ES)
29. Zachariah, N. A. (2015, May 16). Star of the show. The Straits Times; Teo, E. (2013, April 30). New luxury hotel for landmark Capitol site, part of $750m redevelopment project. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.



Further resources
Untitled. (1930, February 22). Malayan Saturday Post, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Peh, H. H. (1950). Hock Lam Street, 1950s: General view [Photograph]. Retrieved from PictureSG: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/pictures

Yap, B. T. (1972, October 9). Hock Lam mall gets a mixed reception. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 25 January 2016 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.

 

Subject
Streets and Places
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places

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