Armenian Street



Armenian Street begins at the junction of Coleman Street and Stamford Road and ends at the point where Canning Rise and Coleman Street meet. The street has one bylane, Loke Yew Street, which connects Armenian Street to Hill Street. Named after the Armenian Church of St Gregory the Illuminator, it was originally called Armenian Church Street. The street also has other significant landmarks such as the Peranakan Museum, the former MPH Building, The Substation, Bible House and the United Chinese Library.1

History
Built in 1835, the Armenian Church of St Gregory the Illuminator is the oldest church in Singapore. The street was already in existence when the church was built but was then unnamed. By the 1840s, the street that ran along a third of the church had become known as Armenian Church Street. It is likely that the name was shortened to Armenian Street some time later. This led to the mistaken belief that many Armenians resided or had businesses along this street. However, only one Armenian residence stood here: Aristarkies Sarkies’s Zetland House occupied one-sixth of the eastern side of the street, though he stayed no more than two years at this mansion. The street also only had one known Armenian business: a photography studio owned by George Michael in the early 1900s, located at the junction of Armenian Street and Stamford Road.2


Besides Armenian Street, there were several other byways associated with the Armenians nearby. One of them was Armenian Lane, which was expunged due to development work, and a short unnamed portion that ran off Hill Street opposite the church and was built over in the 1990s.3

Description
Although short, Armenian Street has several significant buildings situated along it. In 1906, the Hokkien Huay Kuan established Tao Nan School there.4 The school moved to Marine Parade in 1982, and in 1997 the building reopened as the Asian Civilisations Museum. Originally displaying exhibits from China, Southeast Asia, India and West Asia, the museum now focuses on the presenting the culture of the Peranakan community and was accordingly renamed Peranakan Museum. As a national monument, the intricate details of the building remain including the two black eagles at its entrance.5

The former MPH Building, built in 1908, is situated at the junction of Stamford Road and Armenian Street. A big portion of the building extends into Armenian Street, though its main entrance faces Stamford Road. Previously known as the Methodist Publishing House, the company was renamed Malaya Publishing House after its operations were commercialised. Built in the Edwardian commercial street architectural style, it was well known for its retail bookstore, MPH. The building was sold to Vanguard Interiors in the 2000s and is currently leased by the Singapore Management University as part of its campus.6

An old electrical or power station near the shophouses was renovated and converted into an arts centre known as The Substation in February 1990.7 The arts centre features a performing stage and a small gallery. Attached to it was a cafe and an open courtyard used often for performances and exhibitions.8 These two areas have been rented out to the bar and bistro, Timbre, since 2005.9

The United Chinese Library was built between 1908 and 1911 below Fort Canning. It was inaugurated on 8 August 1910 by Sun Yat Sen, the Chinese revolutionary leader. In 1911, the library was moved to Armenian Street. It was set up as one of the 50 reading rooms by the Chinese Republicans to promote their cause overseas. In 1987, the library relocated to Cantonment Road. However, its former premises on Armenian Street remains to this date, and the plaque inscribed with Sun Yat Sen’s words can still be found at its entrance.10

The string of shophouses lining the street has been there since the 1930s. They used to house the operations of the Singapore Museum and one of its museum shop outlets. Opposite this string of shophouses is Wilmer Place, which rents out office space to private enterprises situated within its premises. Beside this was the Mayfair City Hotel. Some shophouses located at the junction of Armenian Street and Loke Yew Street have been restored and conserved.11

After Loke Yew Street stands the Bible House. The United States Embassy used to occupy site until it was relocated to Tanglin.12



Author
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja




References
1. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 362–363. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2003). Toponymics: A study of Singapore street names. Singapore: Times Media Private Ltd., p. 41. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Devi, G. U., et al. (2002). Singapore’s 100 historic places. Singapore: Archipelago Press, pp. 12–13. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
2. Wright, N. H. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Middle Park, Vic.: Amassia Publishing, p. 81. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)
3. Wright, N. H. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Middle Park, Vic.: Amassia Publishing, p. 81. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)
4. Tyers, R. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 58. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
5. Peranakan Museum. (n.d.). Story of our museums: The Tao Nan School Building. Retrieved 2016, May 30 from Peranakan Museum website: http://peranakanmuseum.org.sg/about-us/story-of-our-museums; Asian Civilisations Museum. (n.d.). Story of our museums. Retrieved 2016, May 30 from Asian Civilisations Museum website: http://acm.org.sg/about-us/story-of-our-museums
6. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 362–363. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); Davie, S. (2014, December 21). Former MPH building now learning lab for SMU students. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
7. Tyers, R. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 58. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
8. Devi, G. U., et al. (2002). Singapore’s 100 historic places. Singapore: Archipelago Press, pp. 12–13. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
9. Leow, G. (2005, July 8). On a different note. The New Paper, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Devi, G. U., et al. (2002). Singapore’s 100 historic places. Singapore: Archipelago Press, pp. 12–13. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
11. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (n.d.). 36 and 38 Armenian Street. Retrieved 2016, March 24 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/publications/corporate/aha/2010/36-and-38-Armenian-Street.aspx
12. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 362–363, 366. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we can 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
Street names--Singapore
Commercial buildings
Arts>>Architecture>>Educational buildings
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Public Buildings
Art centers--Singapore
Streets and Places
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places
Public buildings
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Commercial Buildings
Historic buildings--Singapore
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings