Amber Mansions, located along the curve between Orchard Road and Penang Road, was built in the 1920s and was owned by Joseph Aaron Elias, a prominent Jewish businessman. It was one of Singapore’s first shopping centres. It was demolished in 1984 to make way for Dhoby Ghaut MRT station.
Amber Mansions was designed by architecture firm Swan & Maclaren and built between 1921 and 1928.1 Owned by Jewish businessman Joseph Elias, the building took on the family’s clan name Amber as did several of Elias’s properties as well as Amber Road in East Coast.2 Amber Mansions was considered an elite place to shop with many uptown socialites gathering there during its heydays.3 One of Singapore’s first shopping centres, it had some of the most expensive boutiques of Singapore offering the latest fashion.4
Compared to contemporary shopping centres, Amber Mansions was diminutive, standing no taller than three storeys.5 However, architect Lee Kip Lin noted that it was one of the best-designed post-World War I buildings in Singapore.6 Its front facade followed the curve of Penang Lane with a series of shops facing the road. Suites of lawyers and architects were housed upstairs. Some of the building’s well-known tenants included the University Bookstore, Fosters Steakhouse and the construction house, City Developments Limited.7 The municipal Gas Department was housed on the ground level of the Amber Mansions.8 During a heavy downpour, Orchard Road was often flooded and rainwater could reach knee height outside Amber Mansions.9
Despite its popularity, Amber Mansions was pulled down in 1984 together with the Cycle & Carriage showroom and the Sri Sivan Temple, to make way for the construction of the new MRT station at Dhoby Ghaut. Cycle & Carriage moved to Leng Kee Road near Redhill estate, where car showrooms are concentrated in Singapore. Sri Sivan Temple is now located at Geylang East.10
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja
1. “Our Lost Treasures,” Straits Times, 1 April 1990, 1; “Municipal Commission,” Straits Times, 29 July 1922, 10. (From NewspaperSG); Lee Kip Lin, The Singapore House, 1819–1942 (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, National Library Board, 2015), 137. (Call no. RSING 728.095957 LEE)
2. Eze Nathan, The History of Jews in Singapore, 1830–1945 (Singapore: HERBILU Editorial & Marketing Services, 1986), 77–78. (Call no. RSING 301.45192405957 NAT)
3. Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 158. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); “Our Lost Treasures.”
4. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers' Singapore, 158.
5. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers' Singapore, 158.
6. Our Lost Treasures.”
7. Our Lost Treasures”; Geoffrey Eu, “Fostering the Cultured English Charm,” Business Times, 19 January 2002, 11; Melanie Chew, “A Rags-to-Riches story,” Business Times, 23 March 1996, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
8. “Municipal Action,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 21 July 1928, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers' Singapore, 158.
10. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers' Singapore, 158.
B. Ortega and Vincent Fong, “Orchard Road: The Chameleon,” Singapore Monitor, 19 February 1984, 43. (From NewspaperSG)
Julian Davison, “Mansion Blocks, Flats and Tenements: The Advent of Apartment Living,” BiblioAsia (Jul–Sep 2021)
“Singapore Minority Groups,” Straits Times, 10 August 1986, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
The information in this article is valid as at 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.