Red House Bakery



The Red House Bakery is a popular reference to a relict confectionery shop, Katong Bakery & Confectionery. This bakery was a popular breakfast haunt among Singaporeans living in the eastern part of Singapore, especially for its signature cakes and curry puffs. It was established in 1925 and located at 75 East Coast Road. It was closed on 23 March 2003 after the shophouse where it was occupying was deemed as unsafe. 

History
There were two Red Houses when Katong Bakery & Confectionery was painted over the shop entrance in 1925.1 The other was at the corner of Bras Basah Road and Victoria Street.2 The Red House Bakery was located in a shophouse that is a wakaf property, put in trust to the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore by Sherrifa Zain Alsharoff Mohamed Alsagoff, the great granddaughter of Hajjah Fatimah who built the famous Hajjah Fatimah Mosque at Beach Road.3 A Jewish man named Jim Baker started the bakery shop. In 1931, a Hainanese seaman, Tan Siang Fuan,4 paid $600 as “coffee money” to take over the bakery shop from Jim Baker.5


In 1957, the shophouse, where the Red House Bakery was occupying, was declared a wakaf asset together with five other adjacent shophouses along East Coast Road.6 It was specified that the rental income from the shophouses were to be used to fund Sherrifa Zain’s grandchildren’s education until 21 years after her death.7 Beyond that, the earnings were to be used to establish and maintain a free clinic, to be named the Al-Taha Dispensary.8

Key Features
The name Red House Bakery was derived from the façade of the two-storey shophouse that was painted in red.9 It was famous for its traditional cakes and pastries such as its curry puffs and soft swiss rolls.10 It was also known as a favourite hangout for local bands during the 1960s.11

Customers would choose and eat the amount of cakes or pastries that they desired and then proceeded to the cashier to make payment.12 The bakery shop practised a system of payment based on trust, as was the norm among old establishments. The bakery shop exuded old charm as the antique floral tiles and wooden furniture that greeted one upon entry would evoke a feeling of nostalgia.13

It was also the space for casual meetings for families who wanted to matchmake their children to suitable partners.14 There were even “matchmaker’s screens” where prospective couples were introduced, had tea, before going off to the nearby theatres.15 Located within an active retail, entertainment and community hub in the 1950s and 1960s, the bakery was located in what was “often considered the ‘traditional’ heart of Katong”.16

Today, the shophouse where the bakery once stood and the adjacent shophouses along the stretch of East Coast Road are being restored as a residential-retail-lifestyle heritage development.17 The Red House Project is slated to be completed by the second quarter of 2016, which includes a bakery and heritage gallery, with artefacts from the old bakery.18



Author

Heirwin Mohd Nasir



References
1. Holmberg, J. (1993, August 9). Heart of KatongThe Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Holmberg, J. (1993, August 9). Heart of KatongThe Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. A bakery and a 'free clinic' wish. (2001, April 1). The Straits Times, p. 43. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. The name Tan Siang Fuan was also spelt as Tan Siang Suan in Chandy, G. (2000, July 23). Do you Remember? The New Paper, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Holmberg, J. (1993, August 9). Heart of KatongThe Straits Times, p. 16; Ng, J. (2003, March 24). Red house closes its doors for good. The Straits Times, p. 1.Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. A bakery and a 'free clinic' wish. (2001, April 1). The Straits Times, p. 43. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. A bakery and a 'free clinic' wish. (2001, April 1). The Straits Times, p. 43. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. A bakery and a 'free clinic' wish. (2001, April 1). The Straits Times, p. 43. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Chandy, G. (2000, July 23). Do you Remember? The New Paper, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Chandy, G. (2000, July 23). Do you Remember? The New Paper, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Chandy, G. (2000, July 23). Do you Remember? The New Paper, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Chandy, G. (2000, July 23). Do you Remember? The New Paper, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Holmberg, J. (1993, August 9). Heart of KatongThe Straits Times, p. 16; Chandy, G. (2000, July 23). Do you Remember? The New Paper, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Holmberg, J. (1993, August 9). Heart of KatongThe Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Kong, L., & Chang, T.C. (2001). Joo Chiat: Living legacy. Singapore: Joo Chiat Citizen's Consultative Committee, p. 81. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 KON-[HIS]); Chandy, G. (2000, July 23). Do you Remember? The New Paper, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Yeoh, B. S. A., & Kong, L. (Eds.). (1995). Portraits of places: History, community and identity in Singapore. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 121. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 POR)
17. Lin, M. (2015, December 10). Katong’s iconic Red house to reopen by second quarter of 2016. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
18. Kong, L., & Sinha, V. (Eds.). (2015). Food, foodways and foodscapes: Culture, community and consumption in post-colonial Singapore. Singapore; New Jersey: World Scientific, p. 141. (Call no.: RSING 394.12095957 FOO); Lin, M. (2015, December 10). Katong’s iconic Red house to reopen by second quarter of 2016. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/


Further resources
James, J. (2000, December 1). Can Katong’s laid-back charm be saved? The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Ng, J. (2007, July 30). Ex-Red House Bakery to be part of $15m project. The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Red House. (1997, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Red House closes. (2003, March 24). The New Paper, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Tan, D. W. (2002, May 5). Where you can find Hainanese eats. The New Paper, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Zaleha Bte Osman. (Interviewer). (1998, December 29). Oral History interview with Mdm Zainab Bee Bte Abdul Satar. [Transcript of MP3 Recording no. 002084/3/3, pp. 41–44]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

Zaleha Bte Osman. (Interviewer). (1999, August 24). Oral History interview with Mr Lee Liang Hye. [Transcript of MP3 Recording no. 002186/12/3, pp. 22–26]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/



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
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Commercial Buildings
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings
Historic buildings--Singapore
Commercial buildings
Confectioners--Singapore
Bakeries--Singapore
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Manufacturing industries>>Food, beverages and tobacco