Times House

Officially opened on 3 April 1958, Times House, the operation base for Singapore’s leading newspapers once stood at the junction of Kim Seng Road and River Valley Road.1 46 years later, on 1 April 2004 at 8.45 am, the mustard-coloured landmark was targeted to be demolished in four months.2 The news-making occupants of Times House, had by then moved to the new News Centre in Toa Payoh North, two years earlier. A 228-unit freehold condominium called The Cosmopolitan was developed on the site of the former Times House by Wheelock Properties (Singapore), formerly known as Marco Polo Developments.3

Times House had its beginnings in the 1950s, when the Straits Times Press purchased a vacant plot at 390 Kim Seng Road from Eastern Realty for a sum of S$420,000. The site had a haunting history for the plot was rumoured to have served as a Muslim burial ground before the Japanese Occupation, and later as a holding ground for British Prisoners of War during the Occupation. After the purchase of the site, the Straits Times Press hired Swan & Maclaren Architects to build a fully air-conditioned news complex. At a cost of S$991,332, the complex was completed and wired up with 4.8 km of electric cables, and was officially up and running on 3 April 1958.4

Times House was the home of the English and Malay-language press for about 44 years.5 The pride upon its opening was its modern printing presses, including a 6.1-m-high, 114-tonne Crabtree Presses that could run off and fold newspapers at a rate of 40,000 copies an hour.6 Over time, Times House witnessed the evolution of the publishing industry as hot metal printing gave way to computerisation, clearing the air of melted lead used in the old process. Lead wasn’t the only substance to disappear from the air as smoking in the newsroom was banned in 1987.7

There were changes to the building not long after its opening. When it first opened, there was a Front Block and a two-storey Press Block. In the late 1960s, the Annex Block was extended. The Front Block had a facelift by the mid-1970s, and before the decade closed out, five more levels were added to the Press Block. It was also in the 1970s that the famous mustard-yellow colour façade, with which many associate the Times House, was featured.8

In 1987, the Singapore Press Holdings invested S$37 million to redevelop its facilities, bringing further significant changes to Times House.9 Printing units were moved from Times House to Jurong in the late 1980s, and Times House became mainly an editorial unit.10 The last copy of The Straits Times to roll out of the printing press at Times House was the 5 June 1989 issue, and the machines were halted at 5.34 am.11 After the move to Jurong, the existing three blocks of the Times House — Front, Circulation and Press were redeveloped in two phases to become the new corporate headquarters of Singapore Press Holdings.12

There were also several significant events that took place in the Times House.13

The September 1966 strike

Between 2 to 6 September 1966, 1200 printers, clerical and industrial employees and 70 staff from The Straits Times, Malay Mail and Berita Harian went on a strike over "time-off" for two journalists, Peter Lim and Francis Rozario. Negotiations were held, and the issue was resolved with both parties satisfied with the terms.14

The December 1966 to January 1967 strike
Four months after the September 1966 strike, 870 workers congregated outside Times House to protest over smaller-than-expected bonus packages. The management and the union negotiated for 13 days before reaching an agreement during which the Straits Times group did not publish any newspapers.15

Press-restructuring movement of November 1982
The afternoon paper, The New Nation, was given away to its rival, the Singapore News and Publication Ltd. (SNPL), which in turn produced the Singapore Monitor, also an afternoon paper. The Monitor did not survive long after chalking up losses in July 1985. It had applied without success to become a morning paper.16

ISD raid of 13 August 1992
Seven officers from the Internal Security department (ISD) raided the offices of Business Times (BT) after the latter had published vital economic figures deemed to be sensitive. After questioning and further investigations, the ISD brought the matter to court. BT was fined for having breached the Official Secrets Act.17

SPH move from Times House to Toa Payoh North
On 12 February 2002, 371 staff from the Singapore Press Holdings moved from Times House to their new and spacious office at the News Centre at Toa Payoh North.18 The only remaining legacy of Times House is the digital clock which had towered over buildings and roads at the junction of Kim Seng Road and River Valley Road since the 1970s. It had been brought over to the new News Centre.19 In 2003, the landmark Times House was sold to Marco Polo Developments for S$118.88 million.20

Times House’s political ties
Two of the Republic’s Presidents, Wee Kim Wee and S.R. Nathan, used to work at Times House. Wee Kim Wee joined The Straits Times family in 1930 as a clerk, while Nathan was the executive chairman from 1982 to 1988. Other notable politicians who were once a part of Times House include Yatiman Yusoff and Zainul Abidin Rasheed, the former editors of Berita Harian, as well as Abdullah Tarmugi and Irene Ng, formerly of The Straits Times.21


Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

1. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 507 (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); Arti Mulchand, “Changing Times,” Straits Times, 5 April 2004, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Arti Mulchand, “Time’s Up for Times House,” Straits Times, 2 April 2004, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Joyce Teo, “Luxury Freehold Condo at Ex-Times House Site,” Straits Times, 12 March 2005, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Tan Shzr Ee, “Moving with the Times,” Straits Times, 11 February 2002, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Mulchand, Time’s Up for Times House.”
6. Tan, “Moving with the Times.” 
7. Mulchand, “Changing Times.”
8. Mulchand, “Changing Times.”
9. Mulchand, “Changing Times.”
10. “SPH to Redevelop Times House,” Business Times, 2 February 1988, 15 (From NewspaperSG); Tan, “Moving with the Times.” 
11. “Times House Stops Printing Straits Times,” Straits Times, 6 June 1989, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
12. “New Times House will Be SPH Hq,” Straits Times, 4 March 1988, 25. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Tan, “Moving with the Times.” 
14. “The Day the ISD Came a-Knocking,” Straits Times, 11 February 2002, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “The Day the ISD Came a-Knocking.”
16. C. N. Seah, “Singapore, Oh, for a Bagful of New Dailies!” Edge Singapore, 9 December 2003 (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website); “The Day the ISD Came a-Knocking.”
17. “The Day the ISD Came a-Knocking.”
18. Mulchand, “Changing Times.”
19. Mulchand, Time’s Up for Times House.”
20. Tan Hui Yee and Vladimir Guevarra, “SPH Sells Times House to Marco Polo for $119 Million,” Straits Times, 22 November 2003, 52. (From NewspaperSG)
21. Tan, “Moving with the Times.” 

The information in this article is valid as of 5 August 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.

Newspaper buildings--Singapore
Strikes and lockouts--Newspaper--Singapore
Historic buildings--Singapore
Historic buildings