Populated by Hokkien immigrants from Tong Ann County, Fujian, three triads (bao xing “宝兴”, long san “龙三”, and jin an xiang “晋安乡”) dominated the coolie quarters along Club Street.
Club Street could have been named very differently, as it was known as chwee lan teng / chui-lan teng ”翠兰亭”(pavilion), chui-lan gang ”翠兰岗”(hillock), dua meng lai ”大门内”(within the big door, referring to the gateway from Upper Cross Street), and niu jiao jie ”牛角街”(bull horn street, referring to the street’s curvature which resembles a horn).
A distinguishing landmark on Club Street, the building straddles three streets. Originally built by Syed Abdullah bin Hussin Alkaff in 1929 as a multi-occupancy block, the building in question is located on 36 Club Street and has four storeys on Club Street and five storeys on Mohamed Ali Lane. This is due to an additional basement that was created to balance the difference in levels between the two streets. Prior to the conservation of Chinatown in the 1990s, the property was named 16-19 and 21 Mohamed Ali Lane.
Another characteristic of this building was a doorway that used to link Club Street to Mohamed Ali Lane. Pedestrians used to refer to this building as Tong Sum Oak ‘通心屋’ or Tong Sum Lao ’通心楼’. In Cantonese, this means either ‘Thoroughfare House’ or ‘Thoroughfare Building’ respectively.
Like many other buildings designed and built in this era, the “Thoroughfare Building” reflects the beginning stages of modern Singapore architecture, with reinforced concrete construction and metal-frame windows. It also featured high ceilings, and fixed ventilators above and below the windows.
Currently owned by the Citystate Group of Companies, the “Thoroughfare Building” underwent a major renovation at the end of 1990s; Citystate took special attention to ensure that high quality and sensitive restoration of conserved buildings was conducted. Their efforts were recognised when they won the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Architectural Heritage Award in 2000.
Formerly used as a printing shop by Straits Printers Pte Ltd and United Trading Company, the “Thoroughfare Building” sites a bar, Little Creatures Singapore, and serviced apartments at the time of writing.
This is a conserved building(s) by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), please visit URA’s Conservation Portal for more details.
Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.SG does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of October 2019 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.