American Club

The American Club is a community and social club set up on 14 September 1948.1 The club provides recreational and community services for its members. These include having a meal at Thyme Café or Eagle’s Nest, finding a good read in its library of 20,000 books, working offsite at the club’s Business Centre and making travel arrangement at the Travel Desk. Members of the club could also have a game of bowling at the club’s bowling alley or take a swim at the swimming pool. There are also facilities for youths and children at either the Youth Zone or The Club.2

The American Club was established on 14 September 1948 as a body that organised social activities to bring closer affiliation among Americans in Singapore. The idea of having an American Club in Singapore was first mooted in 1932 when the American Association of Singapore (AAS) appointed a committee to look into the matter. However, due to a lack of support, the idea was abandoned. In 1939, the AAS revived the interest when it submitted a bid of $25,000 to turn a German property confiscated by the British into an American club. But the property was handed over to the British Army and was destroyed during the Japanese invasion of Singapore.3

After the Japanese Occupation, the AAS once more tried to set up an American Club. In mid-1948, several AAS members circulated a questionnaire among the American community to gauge their reception on having a club. After receiving a good response, the AAS proceeded to form the club by calling for a General Meeting for all local American residents on 10 September 1948. The meeting was well-attended with individuals and American firms pledging financial support to launch the club. Further, it saw the formation of an organising committee headed by Hal Colyer.4

During the planning process, a landmark decision was made to open the Club’s membership to all races and nationalities. Voting rights were initially restricted to American members but were later extended to Canadians and non-Americans employed by American firms. To retain its identity as an American club, applications from all nationalities were considered as long as the number of voting members exceeded that of associate members.5

When the Club was established, its founding membership had 111 Americans and 35 members of other nationalities. There were also 15 honorary members, including the British Commissioner General for Southeast Asia Malcolm MacDonald and Governor of Singapore Sir Franklin Gimson. Glenn E. Parrot was President, while F. D. Harrison, M. J. Oremus and R. M. Henry were Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer respectively.6

First location
At the time of its formation, the American Club was located in a leased property in Cathay Building. With a limited budget, the club furnished the premises with donated furniture and plants, and purchased bargain-priced furniture from the Custodian of Enemy Property. It also managed to purchase two second-hand slot machines and installed a bar, and received items from firms like Stanvac and Goodyear which supplied painting, carpentry and repair services, and Shaw Brothers which presented the Club with a large painting of the Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. However, it was several months before the club could afford a paid manager, and committee members were put on a rotation schedule to handle complaints and ensure satisfactory service.7

Despite these challenges, membership grew to 327 by the end of the club’s first year, and there was a modest cash surplus. Further, it was becoming popular among the movie-goers, the lunch crowd and the American community especially after it expanded its kitchen service. Some of the activities that the Club organised included bingo nights, bridge tournaments, square dancing and other dances, and their popular “Hard Times”, Thanksgiving and Christmas parties.8

Move to Scotts Road
In late 1951, the club was informed by Cathay to relocate because it wanted to redevelop Cathay building. This caused some divisions among its members, as some wanted the relocated club to be more family-oriented, while others preferred it to retain its present format. Due to the disagreement, the club could not decide its next move and at one point was considering liquating the club completely.9

But in 1954, the club members finally reached a consensus. Partly, this was due to Loke Wan Tho, owner of Cathay, who brought matters to a head by informing the club that he might have to take legal action to have the club evicted. To help the club, Loke also offered a donation of S$25,000. Together with club surpluses of S$50,000 and financing from the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank of China (HSBC) of around S$150,000, the club amassed the necessary funds to relocate.10

After scouting a number of locations, the club settled on its present location at Cycle House on 21 Scotts Road. The house was previously the family home of Chua Cheng Liat, the founder of the Cycle & Carriage motor dealership. The new club opened in June 1955 but remained stagnant for the next few years because it was financially stretched. But after building Manhattan Room, a cocktail lounge, in 1958, the club regained its popularity. From then, the club would expand its facilities gradually, adding a swimming pool in 1963 and Singapore’s first bowling alley in 1966.11 These facilities together with others allowed the club to resume its previous activities and add new ones to attract a diverse crowd.12

Facilities and future plans
Today, the club offers a wide-range of services and facilities including banquet and catering services, restaurant and cafe dining, a bar, a spa, a convenience store, a jackpot room, a library, a business centre, a swimming pool, tennis courts, a bowling alley, and a gym. It also organises a wide range of social activities for its members.13 Some of the more popular ones are the screening of the US presidential elections and American football matches, including its finals or the Super Bowl.14

To meet increasing user demands, the club is currently embarking on an S$65 million redevelopment project. The project will replace the Scotts Road building and pool, and upgrade the Claymore Hill building and Sports Complex.15 It is slated to be completed in early 2019.16


Alvin Chua

1. Glenn A. Wood, American Association of Singapore 50th Anniversary (Singapore: American Association of Singapore, 1967), 163. (Call no. RCLOS 369.25957 AME)
2. “About the Club,” The American Club, accessed 15 March 2016.
3. Wood, American Association of Singapore, 163–4.
4. Wood, American Association of Singapore, 164.
5. Wood, American Association of Singapore, 165.
6. Wood, American Association of Singapore, 164–5.
7. Wood, American Association of Singapore, 165.
8. Wood, American Association of Singapore, 165–6.
9. Wood, American Association of Singapore, 166–7.
10. Wood, American Association of Singapore, 167.
11. Wood, American Association of Singapore, 167–8.
12. Jim Baker, The Eagle in the Lion City: America, Americans and Singapore (Singapore: Landmark Books, 2005), 214. (Call no. RSING 303.4825957073 BAK)
13. The American Club, “American Club.”
14. Baker, Eagle in the Lion City, 214.
15. “Frequently Asked Questions,” The American Club, n.d.
16. “The Project Timeline,” The American Club, n.d.

The information in this article is valid as of 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.

Sports and Recreation