Stamford House



Stamford House, located at the junction of Stamford Road and Hill Street, is an ornate building designed in the Venetian Renaissance style favoured during the Victorian era. Built in 1904, it was designed by Swan and Maclaren architect R. A. J. Bidwell as a commercial entity.1 The building was better known as a hotel until it was sold in 1963 to a commercial enterprise.2 It was then acquired by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in 1984 for conservation and redevelopment.3 The building will be reopened in the third quarter of 2015 as part of a new hotel.4

Description
Design
Completed in 1904, the 25,500-square-foot (2,396 sq m) three-storey building was designed by Regent Alfred John Bidwell (commonly referred to as R. A. J. Bidwell) of architecture firm Swan and Maclaren, based on the requirements of Whiteaway, Laidlaw and Co. The latter owned a department store in Singapore in the early 20th century.5 The building’s first two storeys were used for retail, while the uppermost floor was used for residential purposes.6 As the building was increasingly used as a hotel in later years, the second floor was subsequently converted for residential use.7

Typical of the High Victorian era, the building features intricate details associated with a Venetian Renaissance style applied in commercial buildings of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Classical elements of Stamford House include the central raised pediment, triangular ones at the ends of the symmetrical building, second-floor Venetian windows, keystone arches, as well as the ornate entablature (the horizontal section above columns) and roof balustrade.8 The main entrance features solid granite columns, and the windows are all timber casement.9 The building’s charm is said to lie in its Victorian ornamental detailing and mouldings, particularly its floral friezes. The floral design is echoed in the cast-iron grills placed above the shopfronts.10 Early pictures of the building show that it had a turret at its frontage, but this no longer exists.11

It also has design features that take into account Singapore’s tropical weather.12 The arcaded walkway, for example, allows natural light into the interiors while also encouraging traffic into shops, as passers-by can linger by the windowed shopfronts in comfort, shaded from the sun and rain.13 The arcade on the ground floor also provides more flexibility in the usage of the upper-floor space.14

A second burglary in June 1905 led Swan and Maclaren to install telescopic gates for better security.15 In 1907, electric lighting at the shop windows and electric fans were installed in the Whiteaway store, brightening the shopfront in the evenings and during nighttime. Whiteaway was reportedly the first company in Singapore to use large-scale electric lighting at shop windows as a form of advertising.16

Conservation work
In 1991, the URA led a three-year S$13-million conservation project — its first major conservation work — to restore the building’s unique design.17 Batae Engineering was the main contractor. Some of the building’s characteristic Victorian detailing was only revealed during the restoration work. These include the floral frieze (which had hitherto not been recorded anywhere), granite columns carved out of a single granite slab – a priceless work today – and cast-iron grilles in the same floral design as the frieze.18

During restoration, at least half of the plasterwork and cornices on the exterior were found to be damaged. Many of the wooden floorboards had to be replaced with chengal – timber that is capable of withstanding tropical weather. The restoration of each element was carefully matched with the style of the original design. With minimal intrusion on the sensibilities of the original building, modern amenities – such as central air-conditioning, skylight, escalators and lifts – were added. An annexe block was built to house the bathrooms, toilets and water tanks. All three floors were converted into shopping space, expanding its total gross floor area to 6,530 sq m (64.6 sq ft), with about 3,345 sq m (32.3 sq ft) of rentable space.19

Without the original plan drawings for its interiors, much of the inspiration for the building’s interior renovations was drawn from the exterior design. Echoing the classical style, chengal was used along the escalators and for the lifts, while the interior features plastered friezes and mouldings similar to those on the exterior. Brass lamps of an antique design and brass doors for the lifts were also added for a sense of old-world charm.20

Stamford House was gazetted for conservation on 16 July 2007.21

History
The property was named Oranje Building by its Armenian owner Seth Paul of Stephens, Paul & Co.22 However, it was commonly referred to as the Whiteaway, Laidlaw and Co. Building during its initial years, as the department store of the same name was the main tenant then.23


Department store
Whiteaway, Laidlaw and Co. had relocated its business from Raffles Place to Stamford Road, hoping to attract other businesses to the area and thus build a business centre at that part of town. Whiteaway was located at the corner of the building; other tenants at the time – such as jewellers Weill and Zerner, Thompson Thomas & Co. from Australia, and Watts and Co., a highly regarded saddler and bootmaker – took the space flanking the department store. While businesses fronted the first two floors, the uppermost floor served as residences and the building’s rear was a godown (warehouse) for delivery and stocking of goods.24 Unfortunately, the location did not prove profitable, and Whiteaway returned to Raffles Place in 1915 after vacating Oranje Building the same year.25

Hotel

Aviet Sarkies, who at the time was running the hotels under Messrs Sarkies Brothers, addressed the shortage of rooms at Raffles Hotel by leasing the upper two floors of the Oranje Building so that overflow customers could be accommodated. The 40-room annexe closed in 1913. When Aviet left Singapore in 1918, Martyrose Arathoon took over his duties and went back to leasing the upper floors of the Oranje Building for Raffles Hotel. Arathoon wanted to transform the building into a high-end hotel, so in 1920 he renovated the whole Oranje Building.26

The Sarkies named their new hotel The Grosvenor Hotel.27 Opened on 1 August 1921, The Grosvenor was marketed as a “family hotel” and known interchangeably as The Annexe or Raffles Annexe. The 50-room outfit did not merely serve as an overflow accommodation for guests of the Raffles Hotel but aimed to become a first-class, modern hotel in its own right. The Grosvenor had its own billiard room, and its bath fittings were supposedly the most exceptional among Singapore’s hotels then.28

After The Grosvenor closed in August 1926 and its furniture auctioned off, Stephens, Paul and Co. put up the private unfurnished flats for long-term rentals and set up a restaurant on the ground floor.29 The rooms were renovated and renamed Stamford Hotel and Restaurant in September 1926. It was managed by G. M. Gregory who had previously worked for Raffles Hotel and subsequently The Grosvenor.30 Less than a year later, however, the enterprise was shut. The apartments were taken over by Hoseb Arathoon from Stephens, Paul and Co. on a five-year lease and the Grosvenor name was reinstated.31 Rooms continued to be let out, some of which were taken up by long-term tenants.32

Seth Paul’s daughter, Klara van Hien, returned to Singapore from England in 1933, mainly to address irregularities with the running of The Grosvenor and take over the management of the hotel. While a series of lawsuits went on over a number of years between van Hien and Hoseb Arathoon, who had been running the hotel, van Hien renamed the entity and remodelled it.33 By 1934, it had been remodelled with the addition of new furniture, including a full-size billiard table, and was known as the Oranje Hotel. Its advertisements promoted the hotel as offering comforts away from the usual bustle of the hotel area but promised that transport was convenient with buses plying by its doors.34 The Oranje Hotel was probably used as a hotel during the Japanese Occupation (1942–1945), as two rooms had large bathrooms typically used by the Japanese.35

After the war, van Hien returned to manage the building. The rooms on the upper floor were rented out individually as private apartments; each room was fitted with individual electric meters. Cooking was done by the tenants’ servants at the rear of the ground floor to prevent accidental fire.36

Stamford House and conservation
In 1963, van Hein sold the Oranje Hotel to Basco Enterprises.37 The new owner carried out extensive rewiring and internal reconstruction to modernise the building and ensure it met the fire safety standards of the day. Basco Enterprises named it Stamford House soon after these renovations; by 1969, the building was referred to by its new name.38 Basco Enterprises’ Bobby-O Department Store, which mainly sold electronic equipment and jewellery, was opened in the building likely in the 1970s and remained there until the 1980s.39

Stamford House was acquired in 1984 by the URA for S$5 million under the Land Acquisition Act. Basco Enterprises delayed vacating the premises, claiming that it had plans to conserve the building and that the payout for the acquisition ought to be higher. In 1989, Basco Enterprises lost the lawsuit against the government over the titleship, and its subsequent appeal was also overturned.40

In 1988, as part of redevelopment plans for the historical district of Singapore, Stamford House was earmarked for conservation and revitalisation under repurposed commercial functions.41 In May 1991, because of road-widening requirements, a decision was made to forgo the preservation of the four-storey Eu Court in favour of Stamford House, which was located opposite, as the latter was deemed to have greater commercial potential.42 Later the same year, Stamford House underwent extensive conservation and restoration works.43

Stamford House reopened on 28 March 1995 as a furnishing retail complex, with added amenities such as central air-conditioning, escalators and lifts.44 All three floors were converted into retail space; the restored building featured 22 shops, with Pennsylvania House, a Shaker-style furniture shop, as its anchor tenant.45 In 2001, it was revealed that Pennsylvania House had been operating in the red and its rent was in arrears. The government repossessed its premises when the furniture chain suddenly closed down.46

Recent developments
In 2008, three conserved buildings – Stamford House, Capitol Building and Capitol Theatre – were offered to potential developers as a single integrated site for commercial redevelopment. Besides conserving the exteriors of these heritage buildings, the developer was to include a hotel in the project.47 An economic downturn, however, led to plans being shelved.48

In 2011, Capitol Investment Holdings won the tender for the project, while Shimizu Corporation was contracted to undertake the construction of the development.49 Stamford House and Capitol Building were redesigned as a six-star hotel called The Patina, Capitol Singapore. The 157-room hotel, designed by American company Richard Meier & Partners Architects, alongside local firm architects61, features the “Bidwell Suite”, named after the original architect of Stamford House.50



Author
Bonny Tan



References
1. Gretchen, M. (1984). Pastel portraits: Singapore’s architectural heritage. Singapore: Singapore Coordinating Committee, p. 75. (Call no.: RSING 722.4095957 PAS); Singapore improvements. (1905, April 4). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Tyers, R. (1973, June 8). From hotel to an office block. New Nation, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Wang, L. K. (1984, February 25). Capitol and some adjacent buildings to be acquired. The Business Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Patina Hotels. (n.d.). Pure vision. Modern Heritage. Retrieved from Patina Hotels website: http://patinahotels.com/singapore
5. Singapore improvements. (1905, April 4). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Death of Mr. Seth Paul. (1921, August 25). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Singapore improvements. (1905, April 4). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Wright, N. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Middle Park, Vic.: Amassia Publishing, pp. 120, 122–123. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)
8. Gretchen, M. (1984). Pastel portraits: Singapore’s architectural heritage. Singapore: Singapore Coordinating Committee, p. 75. (Call no.: RSING 722.4095957 PAS); The restoration and renovation of Stamford House: A marriage of the old and new. (1994, September/October). Skyline, (30), 12–13. (Call no.: RSING 354.5957091 S)
9. The restoration and renovation of Stamford House: A marriage of the old and new.  (1994, September/October). Skyline, (30), 12. (Call no.: RSING 354.5957091 S)
10. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Book International, p. 367. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); The restoration and renovation of Stamford House: A marriage of the old and new. (1994, September/October). Skyline, (30), 12. (Call no.: RSING 354.5957091 S)
11. Hill Street, Singapore [Photograph]. (1910). Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline; Lim, J. (2009, July 29). Start-ups feel at home in Stamford House. The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Singapore improvements. (1905, April 4). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Chia, M. (1998, May 25). The charm of old Singapore. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Book International, p. 367. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
15. Official somnolence. (1905, June 21). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Untitled. (1907, May 27). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Electrical advertising. (1909, January 9). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. From cabaret to blockbusters. (2008, April 27). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Bachtiar, I., & Yeo, S. (1994, May 22). Stamford House $13-m laterThe Sunday Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Bachtiar, I., & Yeo, S. (1994, May 22). Stamford House $13-m laterThe Sunday Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; $10m plan to convert Stamford House into shopping centre. (1991, December 2). The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Bachtiar, I., & Yeo, S. (1994, May 22). Stamford House $13-m laterThe Sunday Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (n.d.). Capitol Theatre, Capitol Building and Stamford House. Retrieved from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/conservationportal/consmap.html?bldgid=SRNBR&page=History
22. Wright, N. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Middle Park, Vic.: Amassia Publishing, pp. 66, 269. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)
23. Singapore improvements. (1905, April 4). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Singapore improvements. (1905, April 4). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Whiteaway’s. (1915, May 31). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Untitled. (1915, May 1). The Straits Times, p. 8 Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Wright, N. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Middle Park, Vic.: Amassia Publishing, pp. 120, 122–123. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI); Hotel tariffs. (1922, March 10). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. The Grosvenor. (1921, September 24). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Liu, G. (1992). Raffles Hotel. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 94. (Call no.: RSING 647.94595701 LIU); The Grosvenor. (1921, September 21). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Untitled. (1926, August 14). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Untitled. (1926, July 22). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Untitled. (1926, September 8). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Wright, N. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Middle Park, Vic.: Amassia Publishing, p. 138. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)
32. Guest claims $500 from hotel. (1934, May 16). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Wright, N. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Middle Park, Vic.: Amassia Publishing, pp. 269–270. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI); God-father’s $16,000 claim. (1940, March 5). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Willis, A. C. (1936). Willis’s Singapore guide. Singapore: Alfred Charles Willis, pp. 13, 35. (Call no.: RRARE 959.57 WIL); Wright, N. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Middle Park, Vic.: Amassia Publishing, p. 270. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI); Advertisements Column 6. (1934, July 25). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Tyers, R. (1973, June 8). From hotel to an office block. New Nation, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Keys, P. (1983, September 6). Take a Bras Basah stroll. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Edward, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Book International, p. 367. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
36. Tyers, R. (1973, June 8). From hotel to an office block. New Nation, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tenant told to leave. (1948, August 21). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Wright, N. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. Middle Park, Vic.: Amassia Publishing, p. 138. (Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)
37. Tyers, R. (1973, June 8). From hotel to an office block. New Nation, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Tyers, R. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 61. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE)
39. Advertisements Column 1. (1974, September 16). New Nation, p. 3; Sleight-of-hand trickster jailed. (1982, May 17). The Straits Times, p. 34; Company cheated of video sets worth $32,000. The Straits Times, p. 9; Citizen, can. (1990, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 57. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Wang, L. K. (1984, February 25). Capitol and some adjacent buildings to be acquired. The Business Times, p. 1; Owners unhappy over acquisition of land. (1984, February 26). The Straits Times, p. 12; Lim, S. (1989, December 2). Ex-owners of Stamford House lose court appeal. The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. Wee, A. (1988, December 5). Work to revitalise ‘historical heart’ in full swing. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. Koh, E., & Hong, L. T. (1991, May 7). Tenants show their love for Eu. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, S. (1991, May 7). Not just a cry for conservation. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43. Bachtiar, I., & Yeo, S. (1994, May 22). Stamford House $13-m laterThe Sunday Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
44. Bachtiar, I., & Yeo, S. (1994, May 22). Stamford House $13-m later. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Yeo, S. (1995, March 28). Stamford House enters growing $2-b decor market. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
45. Yeo, S. (1994, November 24). Stamford House latest centre in furnishings. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Fine furnishings behind a Victorian facade. (1995, July 14). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
46. Kang, J. (2001, April 27). Trouble brewing in the house for weeks. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
47. Hong, X. (2008, April 3). Capitol Theatre slated for redevelopment. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Teo, J. (2008, June 20). Capitol site and two new growth areas up for sale. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
48. Hong, X. (2009, June 5). Tenants in limbo. The Straits Times, p. 140. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
49. Tan, M. (2011, November 23). Capitol to be the epitome of luxury. TheBusiness Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
50. Zachariah, N. A. (2015, May 16). Star of the show. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva; Lee, M., & Mak, E. (2015, May 16). The resurrection of Capitol Theatre. TheBusiness Times. Retrieved from Factiva; Patina Hotels. (n.d.). Bidwell Suite. Retrieved from Patina Hotels website: http://patinahotels.com/singapore




Further resource
Pinsler, R. (1982, January 6). Hill Street junction with Stamford Road with Eu Court building on the left Stamford House on the right [Photograph]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline




The information in this article is valid as at 28 July 2015 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.

Subject
Ethnic Communities
Heritage and Culture
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Historic Buildings
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings
Historic buildings--Singapore
Historic buildings

All Rights Reserved. National Library Board Singapore 2015.